Tagged: Yankees

Perfect Umpire

The many controversial calls in the ALCS have led some to call for expanded use of instant replay in the playoffs.

Count me firmly in the “no” column.

Tim McCarver made an excellent point during last night’s telecast. How far does it go? Strike zone calls? Checked swings? Balks? A failure to call a balk? How’s about that phantom double play call at second base when the infielder usually gets the call if he’s “in the vicinity”?

And what about obscure rules like coaches standing in the coach’s box, or how high on a bat pine tar is permitted?

MLB has allowed instant replay for home run calls, and so far it’s been rarely used — because home run calls are rarely disputed.

A situation like Game #4 where Mike Napoli tagged two runners who were not standing on the base would seem like a valid situation.

But how do you write into the rulebook the controlled use of instant replay so it doesn’t become abusive? And how do you address errors that might occur in subjective decisions such as strike zone?

Years ago, when I was pursuing a career as a full-time writer, I noodled around with an idea for a novel about professional baseball several hundred years in the future. One idea I had was that technology had come so far that baseball had eliminated human umpires and implemented a system called Perfect Umpire.

Perfect Umpire was an integrated technology woven into the literal fabric of the game. Uniforms were made of tiny filaments that would sense position, contact and movement. The same with baseballs. The fields were artificial surfaces made of the same material. All of it was instantly transmitted into a computer server that would always make the right call.

In theory.

In the opening scene, the primary character dives for a ball and catches it — only Perfect Umpire rules he trapped it.

Ballplayers — and unscrupulous owners — have figured out ways to hoodwink the technology, the futuristic versions of the corked bat and sandpaper.

It was all tongue in cheek, of course, but the point was that no technology is perfect when human beings are involved.

All instant replay does is inject human judgment at a different step in the process. Will it improve the number of correct calls? Hard to say. The track record with instant replay in the NFL, in my opinion, has been somewhat mixed. I’ve seen replays that are inconclusive. Then what? Stick with the ruling on the ground? So all you’ve done is validate the original ruling, or at least shown the technology isn’t any better than human judgment, which meant it was a waste of time.

Instant replay might have reversed blown calls like the two runners on third in Game #3. But do we really want to see managers call for instant replay over and over again when an infielder is in the neighborhood on a double play turn at second? Technically, yes, he’s supposed to touch the bag. But neither do we want to increase the number of injuries to infielders.

It seems to me that instant replay complicates things, and removes a certain charm unique to the game.

Extra for experts … “Perfect Umpire” was a homage to the long-defunct Perfect Writer, the first word processor software I ever used. It came with the Kaypro II, a CP/M computer I bought circa 1984.

Superior Firepower

Alex Rodriguez with the Texas Rangers in 2002. He’s one of the many mercenaries acquired by the New York Yankees to build a roster of future Hall of Famers.


Sage philosopher Yogi Berra once said, “It ain’t over till it’s over.”

Although the Angels are down 3-1 to the Yankees in their best-of-seven series, they still go to the World Series if they win Thursday then go to New York and win the last two games there.

Which brings up another quote attributed to Berra, “It gets late early out there.”

It’s very late for the Angels.

I’m a fatalist when it comes to the post-season. Three layers of playoff series add so much unpredictability that I don’t see the point to getting all worked up about what happens.

Watching this series, though, I’m grateful for any games we win because the Yankees have a roster laden with future Hall of Famers.

Among the position players, Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter are slam-dunk inductees. A-Rod has 583 career homers at age 34 and, barring injury, should be the all-time home run king by the time he retires. Jeter at age 35 has 2,747 career hits and should easily top 3,000 if he doesn’t get hurt.

Arguments could be made for other Yankees players.

Mark Teixeira doesn’t turn 30 until next April but has hit over 30 homers a season every year since his rookie campaign, when he hit 26. He hit 41 in 2008 and 43 in 2009.

Jorge Posada won’t be a first-year inductee, but certainly will be considered. He has 243 homers, has gone to five All-Star games and won five Silver Slugger awards for the best hitting catcher in the league.

Johnny Damon won’t get a Hall induction, although early in his career he was certainly headed in that direction. He hit 24 homers this year, matching his single-season high.

Robinson Cano probably won’t go either, but at age 27 (tomorrow) he hit 25 dingers this year, a personal single-season high.

The so-called “fans” who bash the Angels’ pitching for giving up runs to this lineup are not living in the real world. There’s no pitching staff on the planet that could shut down this modern day Murderers’ Row.

The pitching staff also has its Hall of Fame candidates.

Andy Pettitte will be inducted. He has 229 career wins and a lifetime .629 winning percentage. His career ERA is a little high at 3.91 but he’s pitched in an era where anything below 4.00 is considered pretty good. He’s averaged 6.7 strikeouts and 2.8 walks per nine innings over his fifteen-season career.

How’s about A.J. Burnett? He’s been on some mediocre teams, which has kept down his win total, but he has a career 3.84 ERA in 11 seasons, averaging 8.4 strikeouts and 3.8 walks per nine innings. At age 32, he still has several good years left in him, and playing in the New York limelight might be enough to get him Hall votes.

C.C. Sabathia has showed in this series why he might be a Hall candidate when he retires. He’s only 29 but already has 136 career wins; 300 used to be the gold standard for Hall of Fame pitchers but now 250 is good enough and C.C. has another 8-10 years to notch 114 more to reach 250. His career ERA is 3.62, averaging 7.6 strikeouts and 2.8 walks per nine innings.

That’s the three-man rotation the Angels have faced in this series — Sabathia, Burnett, Pettitte.

And I don’t think we need to argue whether closer Mariano Rivera will be inducted into the Hall of Fame. That’s a slam dunk.

So on this 25-man roster, you can pretty much assume that Rodriguez, Jeter, Pettitte and Rivera are a lock for the Hall. Teixeira, Posada, Sabathia and Burnett certainly are possibilities.

That’s eight guys, or about one-third of their roster.

The best team money can buy.

The Yankees had an Opening Day payroll of $201 million, according to USA Today. The Angels were at $114 million, a little over half of the Yankees’ payroll.

And for that, we have at least the second-best team in the American League.

I can live with that.

Coast to Coast: Pull Up a Chair

The Brevard County Manatees are the Milwaukee Brewers’ affiliate in the Florida State League, the equivalent of the Angels’ Rancho Cucamonga Quakes in the California League.

The Manatees have no radio contract. They’ve already clinched a playoff appearance next week, a best-of-three series against the Tampa Yankees. I offered to webcast the games for free. The Manatees said yes.

By coincidence, the regular season concludes this weekend with the Yankees in town for three games against the Manatees. We’re going to use the series as a “playoff preview.”

Most minor league teams have to pay to put their broadcasts on the radio, which is why several broadcast only on the Internet or have no broadcast at all.

Our project is definitely on the cheap. I bought a gaming headset last week for about $40 at the local Best Buy. It plugs into my laptop computer, which will connect to MLB Advanced Media via the Internet. We’ve already done a couple games no one knew about to test the technology.

Believe me, it won’t be Vin Scully.

It’s just a way to get the games online so the players’ parents can listen around the world. Hopefully the locals here in the Space Coast will listen too.

And being an Angels fan, how could I possibly pass up an opportunity to beat the Yankees?

UPDATE September 4, 2009 3:15 PM PDT — My webcast debut has to wait for another day, as we’re rained out. Makeup twinbill tomorrow at 2:00 PM PDT.