Copyright 2014 Boston Herald Inc.
All Rights Reserved
NEW YORK - If baseball's new instant-replay system were a new car, the manufacturer would have issued a recall by now.
Last night, Red Sox manager John Farrell positioned himself as the Ralph Nader of baseball with a searing indictment of the system's flaws and shortcomings.
"It's extremely difficult to have any faith in the process that's being used," said Farrell after spending the final five innings of the 3-2 loss in the visitors clubhouse after he was ejected for arguing a successful challenge by the New York Yankees to a very close play at first base.
Initially, Francisco Cervelli was the second out in what would have been an inning-ending double play, but after a replay review the umpires changed their ruling, determining Cervelli beat the throw to first.
A run scored on the play. It was the winning run.
Farrell's ensuing argument was futile and doomed - managers are automatically ejected for arguing challenge decisions - but his outburst may wind up being the catalyst for an overhaul of a well intended but inadequately deployed process.
That last night's episode came the day after the Red Sox lost an appeal on a play at second base even though the video feed clearly shows that Yankees baserunner was out - Major League Baseball officials later fessed up, saying the umpires made the wrong call in the Red Sox appeal on Saturday because they didn't have access to the correct video - only fueled Farrell's ire.
For a manager who goes - successfully - to great lengths to maintain his cool and retain his patience when the cameras and recorders are on, Farrell spoke with both candor and near disgust.
Farrell wasn't quite livid, but he was much more than steamed.
Before this series, if MLB was not sure it had work to do on the instant-replay system, then it is well aware now.
As for what he would do to fix the system, Farrell gave a rueful laugh before responding.
"Well, I don't know,' he said, "I haven't thought that far along. As much as they're trying to help the human element inside this system, it seems like it's added a human element at a different level."
Farrell made it clear he was either misled about the rules of instant replay or somebody was misinterpreting those rules.
"We felt that it was clear that the replay was inconclusive," said Farrell. "The frustrating part is that when this was rolled out and explained to us, particularly on the throw received by the first baseman, we were instructed that when the ball enters the glove - not that it has to hit the back of the glove - is where the out is deemed complete. At the same time, any angle that we looked at, you couldn't tell if the foot was on the bag behind Mike Napoli's leg. So where this became conclusive is a hard pill to swallow and on the heels of yesterday, it's hard to have any faith in the system to be honest with you."
Farrell knew he'd be ejected when he went out, and amateur lip-readers had a field day with Farrell's narrative that emphasized reminding the umpires that they had screwed up for the second time in two days.
"I argued the point that it was inconclusive," said Farrell. "I know that arguing a challenge play is not allowed, evident by spending most of the game inside."
The instant-replay debate is going to rage for more than a few days, that is clear now. Nobody from MLB was available last night to respond to Farrell's comments, but the league surely will get around to addressing the system. They're not going to eliminate it, but it would behoove them to implement changes at a faster pace than the sport took to implement the system.
Two related areas they probably will want to take a look at is the wisdom of showing the disputed play on the stadium's main scoreboard at the same time a cluster of umpires is huddled on the field discussing a replay of their own. Transparency for the fans is a noble goal, but it's naïve to think umpires are not influenced by home crowds. To have 46,000-plus fans intimately involved in the review process with different videos playing at the same time has to be an intimidating and unnerving experience for the umpires.
That's just one area up for review.
There will be others.
"When you're talking about something as substantial as replay being brought into the game, there's going to be a learning curve and everyone becoming familiar with it but again, you would think video replay would be inconclusive or there's plays where it's not conclusive, which was tonight," said Farrell. "And unfortunately, we're on the wrong side of it both times."