Joe Maddon is the latest manager to rip instant replay. He’s got a point.

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Last night the Cubs lost to the Dodgers. The last play of the game featured Cubs batter Chris Denorfia smacking a base hit into the left field corner. It looked like a sure double, but Scott Van Slyke fired the ball to second base and shot down Denorfia as he slid into the bag head first.

Or did he? It was a close play at first blush, and it went to instant replay:

[mlbvideo id=”196309583″ width=”600″ height=”336″ /]

 

Close to be sure, but the center field angle made it look like Denorfia touched the bag before the tag touched his chest. Replay officials ruled that the call on the field stood, as there was not definitive evidence to overturn the out call.

That play may not have made the difference in the game — the Dodgers were up by three at the time — but it certainly got under Joe Maddon’s skin.

“I think it screams for an independent group back there to research the video,” Maddon said after the game. “That’s what I think it screams for as opposed to working umpires that are actually on the field. I think you should get a bunch of nerds back there that know how to look at a videotape and then come to a conclusion. I think it would be much more interesting that way.”

Maddon seemed to be particularly upset about something we talked about last week, which is the whole burden of proof thing, in which calls on the field are given deference unless there is definitive evidence to overturn this. Maddon seems to be saying what I was saying about how the calls should be made clean by replay officials, with their better view substituting for the judgment of the on-field umpires who, especially in this case, did not have a great look at the play. Why they are given deference is a mystery to me.

Also, the “nerds” comment seems to be Madden wondering why it’s field umps working the replay booth back in New York. He didn’t come out and say it, but I will: why would they be eager to overturn their on-field brethren when umpires are no doubt judged on how often they’re overturned? Next week it could be them, after all, and the notion of overruling another ump may be distasteful to them unless they absolutely have to do it.

Independent, de novo review of challenged calls makes far more sense than the system we have now. Major League Baseball needs to implement such a system.

MLB crowds jump from ’21, still below pre-pandemic levels

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PHOENIX — Even with the homer heroics of sluggers like Aaron Judge and Albert Pujols, Major League Baseball wasn’t able to coax fans to ballparks at pre-pandemic levels this season, though attendance did jump substantially from the COVID-19 affected campaign in 2021.

The 30 MLB teams drew nearly 64.6 million fans for the regular season that ended Wednesday, which is up from the 45.3 million who attended games in 2021, according to baseball-reference.com. This year’s numbers are still down from the 68.5 million who attended games in 2019, which was the last season that wasn’t affected by the pandemic.

The 111-win Los Angeles Dodgers led baseball with 3.86 million fans flocking to Dodger Stadium for an average of 47,672 per contest. The Oakland Athletics – who lost 102 games, play in an aging stadium and are the constant subject of relocation rumors – finished last, drawing just 787,902 fans for an average of less than 10,000 per game.

The St. Louis Cardinals finished second, drawing 3.32 million fans. They were followed by the Yankees (3.14 million), defending World Series champion Braves (3.13 million) and Padres (2.99 million).

The Toronto Blue Jays saw the biggest jump in attendance, rising from 805,901 fans to about 2.65 million. They were followed by the Cardinals, Yankees, Mariners, Dodgers, and Mets, which all drew more than a million fans more than in 2021.

The Rangers and Reds were the only teams to draw fewer fans than in 2021.

Only the Rangers started the 2021 season at full capacity and all 30 teams weren’t at 100% until July. No fans were allowed to attend regular season games in 2020.

MLB attendance had been declining slowly for years – even before the pandemic – after hitting its high mark of 79.4 million in 2007. This year’s 64.6 million fans is the fewest in a non-COVID-19 season since the sport expanded to 30 teams in 1998.

The lost attendance has been balanced in some ways by higher viewership on the sport’s MLB.TV streaming service. Viewers watched 11.5 billion minutes of content in 2022, which was a record high and up nearly 10% from 2021.