Expanded playoffs were rushed across the finish line in time for the 2012 season. But expanded instant replay? Unfortunately we’ll have to wait for at least another year.
The new collective bargaining agreement called for replay to include calls on trapped balls, fair-or-foul calls and fan interference. However, Ben Walker of the Associated Press reports that MLB and the unions representing for the umpires and the players were unable to agree on a plan to implement it for this season.
“We weren’t able to come up with an acceptable set of agreements between the three parties,” MLB executive vice president for labor relations Rob Manfred told The Associated Press on Tuesday. “We hope we’ll be able to do it in time for the 2013 season.”
There are still some logistics to work out, such as who would ask for a challenge and whether umpires or an MLB official would be tasked with making the final decision on calls. Not surprisingly, most of the resistance seems to be coming from the umpires. Walker notes they want something in return for the use of expanded replay, perhaps in the form of additional retirement or disability benefits or even a seventh umpire for postseason crews.
The Astros walked off 3-2 winners in the bottom of the 11th inning of ALCS Game 2 against the Yankees. Carlos Correa struck the winning blow, sending a first-pitch fastball from J.A. Happ over the fence in right field at Minute Maid Park, ending nearly five hours of baseball on Sunday night.
Correa’s heroics were precipitated by two highly questionable calls by home plate umpire Cory Blaser in the top half of the 11th.
Astros reliever Joe Smith walked Edwin Encarnación with two outs, prompting manager A.J. Hinch to bring in Ryan Pressly. Pressly, however, served up a single to left field to Brett Gardner, putting runners on first and second with two outs. Hinch again came out to the mound, this time bringing Josh James to face power-hitting catcher Gary Sánchez.
James and Sánchez had an epic battle. Sánchez fell behind 0-2 on a couple of foul balls, proceeded to foul off five of the next six pitches. On the ninth pitch of the at-bat, Sánchez appeared to swing and miss at an 87 MPH slider in the dirt for strike three and the final out of the inning. However, Blaser ruled that Sánchez tipped the ball, extending the at-bat. Replays showed clearly that Sánchez did not make contact at all with the pitch. James then threw a 99 MPH fastball several inches off the plate outside that Blaser called for strike three. Sánchez, who shouldn’t have seen a 10th pitch, was upset at what appeared to be a make-up call.
The rest, as they say, is history. One pitch later, the Astros evened up the ALCS at one game apiece. Obviously, Blaser’s mistakes in a way cancel each other out, and neither of them caused Happ to throw a poorly located fastball to Correa. It is postseason baseball, however, and umpires are as much under the microscope as the players and managers. Those were two particularly atrocious judgments by Blaser.