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MLB, Replay Review Face Serious Conundrum

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Perhaps MLBs fiercest rivalry since 2014 is between the Atlanta Braves and Major League Baseball’s instant replay procedures. This has become such an issue with the Braves in recent years that even Tom Glavine, one of the greatest Atlanta Braves of all-time and now a broadcaster for the ballclub, makes subtly snarky comments during reviews regularly. The calls, unfortunately, have become far more egregious in recent days.

The instant replay review was instituted in 2014, as MLB was the final of the four major sports to implement instant review. The idea is that the call on the field will stand if there is not “clear and convincing” evidence that the call on the field was incorrect, which opens the reviews to a lot of subjective perspective on what is and is not sufficient in regards to overturning an awful call. Many proponents of the rule cite examples such as Armando Galarraga’s blown perfect game bid as reasons that instant replay should have been materialized much sooner. While I agree with having instant replay is extremely important, the transparency of the review booth has been abysmal at best. Not to mention, if you aren’t going to get a call correct, then what is the point of having replay in the first place?

The Braves don’t have the best history with umpires. In fact, two of the most notorious calls from umpires, the Sam Holbrook infield fly call against Andrelton Simmons and the game where Eric Gregg gave Livian Hernandez the most generous strikezone in MLB history, came at Atlanta’s expense in the postseason. Replay reviews should, in theory, take away a lot of umpire discretion by putting focus on the footage of what actually happened. Meanwhile, the Braves snapped an 0-4 skid to begin the season, winning four consecutive games heading into Sunday night. With the game on national television, tied at six late, baseball saw what will easily be the worst call this year, so much so that even the Phillies players were taken aback, the Phillies and Rockies shared a Twitter exchange comparing it to the Matt Holliday game and the baseball world was left bewildered. Jomboy Media breaks down exactly what happened, with footage documenting the events that transpired, below.

With one out, Will Smith on the mound and Alec Bohm at the hot corner, shortstop DiDi Gregorious pops a proverbial can of corn to left-fielder Marcell Ozuna who guns down a tagging Bohm at the dish. Bohm is ruled safe, leaving catcher Travis d’Arnaud aghast. Three different angles show clear and convincing that Bohm’s cleat never made contact with the bag. The base of Bohm’s foot doesn’t even touch the ground until it’s four feet away from the plate. Replay ruled him safe.

In a game that saw homeruns from talents such as former NL MVP Bryce Harper and Braves second base phenom Ozzie Albies and was tied in the top of the ninth, the thing that everybody is discussing is how terrible MLBs supposed “state of the art” review system is. Due to the subjective nature of “clear and convincing,” the person operating the review can opt to overturn or not overturn at their discretion, allowing problems like this where there is no question that Bohm was thrown out. It cost Atlanta the game.

To make up for it, and this is where it gets fascinating, the Braves began a series with the Marlins on Monday. The Marlins have also recently been scrutinizing MLBs review system after they lost late due to a Michael Conforto walk-off hit by pitch that should’ve been strike three as he leaned into it. So much so, that the umpire who originally made the call had already rung Conforto up, changed the call in real-time and then after the game said he got the call wrong. Gary Cohen and Ron Darling, the Mets broadcast team, even expressed their displeasure with the ruling. The Marlins, however, could not challenge the ruling on the field because hit by pitch is not reviewable. If not every play is going to be reviewable by MLBs third party officials, why is the system in place in the first place? The hit by pitch went to umpire review, yet it was those same umpires who called it a hit-by-pitch in the first place. The Marlins on Monday received even more reason to be upset with MLBs process during their game with Atlanta.

With Atlanta up 3-1 and former All-Star Corey Dickerson at the plate, Jon Berti swiped first base and was called safe upon the initial ruling, despite Alex Jackson providing an absolute bullet to shortstop Dansby Swanson. Swanson immediately told Atlanta to review it, which manager Brian Snitker chose to do so. You can watch the play here. The play was bang-bang, but Berti just barely beat it, and if he didn’t then the ball got to him at the same time he touched the plate. The old adage is that a tie goes to the runner. MLB’s review system overturned the call on the field and ruled Berti out, presumably a make-up call for the previous night in Atlanta. Their idea of fixing a problem of getting calls wrong is to get more calls wrong? What happened to the “clear and convincing” protocol that MLB has in place? There is zero point of instant replay if you’re intentionally going to get calls incorrect. That actively tarnishes the integrity of the game, the faith in the system and makes MLB devoid of all accountability. Is there a system in sports currently that’s more broken than MLB’s replay review system is? If there is, then I have yet to come across it and I cover sports. Games should not be decided by MLB lacking competence. The fans and the players deserve a lot better.

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