We’re just two weeks or so into the 2021 MLB season, and already the league has some serious issues to tackle regarding its broken replay system. Over a span of four days, two games were determined by controversial plays that should have been overturned during replay reviews, but for some reason just weren’t.
During last Thursday’s Mets home opener against the Marlins, Michael Conforto was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth to walk in the winning run. Except, he wasn’t exactly hit! The replay review revealed that Conforto clearly extended his elbow to meet the ball in the strike zone. As pointed out by Mets announcers Gary Cohen, Keith Hernandez, and Ron Darling during the subsequent replay review, the league replay team was not allowed to determine whether Conforto made this illegal move. It’s the umpires who have the authority to call Conforto out for the maneuver, which they did not do. Despite the Met win, the SNY crew was fuming, remaining objective in their analysis of the play. Darling even asked “You’re trying to get it right, they don’t get it right. So why even have replay?”
While the Conforto situation is certainly a rare occurrence, another wild ending in last week’s Sunday Night Baseball matchup between the Phillies and Braves brought the season’s second replay controversy. Only this time, it’s far more embarrassing for Major League Baseball.
With the game tied 6-6 in the top of the ninth, Phillies third baseman Alec Bohm was called safe at home on a close play at the plate following a sacrifice fly. The play immediately went to replay review, where it became abundantly clear that Bohm never actually touched home plate. Despite multiple camera angles confirming that Bohm was actually out, the original call stood anyways, allowing the Phillies to score what ultimately became the game’s winning run.
Anytime Major League Baseball screws up this bad it’s obviously an embarrassment, but to do so twice in four days, and during a nationally-televised ESPN Sunday night game is even worse.
These blunders follow MLB’s debated decision to move this summer’s All-Star Game from Atlanta to Denver. Baseball did so after Georgia passed legislation to enforce strict new voting requirements which many consider racist.
Following Sunday night’s blunder and the Conforto controversy, media members weighed in on the state of MLB replay and what the league can do to avoid these situations moving forward.
Ryan Fagan – (Sportingnews.com) @ryanfagan
Fagan addressed the fundamental issues with baseball’s current replay system that allowed for these situations to occur in the first place.
“Here’s a solution: How about just admitting umpires on the field could have made a mistake and have the replay officials in New York make the disputed call, unbiased by what the umpire on the field thought he saw?”
Fagan also called on the league to make every play reviewable.
“If the goal is to get every call right — and if it’s not, again, what are we even doing? — here’s a list of what should be reviewable: Everything. Everyone watching the live broadcast saw what Conforto did. And everyone who watched even one single replay from that perspective saw Conforto’s lean. But it wasn’t reviewable? That’s a joke.”
David O’Brien – (The Athletic) @DOBrienATL
O’Brien criticized the replay system for being more concerned with protecting the reputations of umpires than making the right calls.
“I’ll say, as I’ve said many times before, the replay system, as used by MLB, sucks.
It’s done nothing to improve the game, because umps are so reluctant to overturn calls. They protect their brethren. And it’s embarrassing for MLB on nights like this, when everyone can see it.”
Karl Ravech – (ESPN) @karlravechespn
Ravech questioned whether or not the league was withholding a special camera angle that’s only visible to the replay center, and whether or not that had anything to do with the horrible Phillies-Braves call.
“If MLB has a view that is exclusive to them, that needs to be a part of the explanation for the call being upheld. I did not see one replay which showed Bohm’s foot/toe touch home. Appeared to pop right over the plate.”
Grant McAuley (From the Diamond) @grantmcauley
McAuley expressed the disbelief and frustration on the minds of many fans after Sunday night’s controversy unfolded.
“In the sordid history of MLB Replay Review as relates to the Atlanta Braves, that right there is perhaps the most hideous call I’ve seen.
Everyone sees the same thing but the replay reviewer?”
Rich Eisen – (The Rich Eisen Show / NFL Network) @RichEisen
Speaking on his popular network talk radio show, Eisen called on the MLB to hold umpires to a higher standard by making them announce the rationale of their decisions after a replay review is completed.
“The dreadful live call in the Phillies/Braves game and the ensuing replay emoji shrug to uphold it is made far worse by the fact that MLB umps are not required to explain their call “after further review” to the crowd and, thus, home audience like NFL, NBA and NHL refs all are.”