x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Game 3 shows replay will end many, but not all, umpiring controversies

Jim Joyce's obstruction ruling - which awarded Allen Craig home and made him the winning run for St Louis on Saturday night in the World Series - is an example of a kind of call that will always spark debate, writes Gregg Patton.

Jim Joyce, right, made the obstruction call that awarded St Louis the winning run on Saturday night. Tannen Maury / EPA
Jim Joyce, right, made the obstruction call that awarded St Louis the winning run on Saturday night. Tannen Maury / EPA

The imminent implementation of expanded instant replay will correct some of baseball’s more obvious mistakes.

But if anyone thinks the expected new system will take all of the controversy out of the game, forget it.

The end of Game 3 of the World Series, in which the third-base umpire Jim Joyce ruled that the Boston Red Sox third baseman Will Middlebrooks impeded St Louis Cardinals base runner Allen Craig, allowing the winning run to score on “walk-off obstruction” – would probably not be a reviewable call. No number of looks at a television monitor would overturn what Joyce determined had happened when Craig tripped over the upraised legs of the sprawling Middlebrooks and was awarded home.

Replay or no replay, Joyce’s judgment will simply live in baseball lore.

It has been a high-profile week for the umpires, who were embroiled in controversy before the Series was one inning old.

Dana DeMuth’s erroneous call on a force play at second base in Game 1 reminded us that replay will have its benefits. The new system, most likely involving manager challenges, is expected to be approved during the winter. Had it been in place already, replay would have been used when DeMuth ruled that Cardinals shortstop Pete Kozma had caught a ball on a force play at second base.

Fortunately, the majority of the six-man umpiring crew had enough evidence and fortitude to huddle and correct a mistake that millions of fans watching their TVs at home already knew.

Fortunately as well, debates, like the one that ended Game 3, will be rare.