The Man Who Destroyed Baseball
During the 6th inning of yesterday’s Phillies v Marlins game Hunter Pence hit a towering shot to right field. Marlins right fielder Bryan Petersen made a valiant effort to leap for the ball as it headed towards the wall. At this point two idiots (I won’t call them fans. Fans watch the game. They root for their team. They celebrate the wins. They mourn the losses. They don’t interfere with a game in progress.) reach out and interfere with Petersen’s efforts and the ball bounces off either Petersen’s glove or the idiots’ hands and caroms into the corner. Pence ends up on 2nd with a double and Ryan Howard, who’d been on first, ends up at third.
Had first base umpire, and crew chief, Joe West called Pence out on fan interference at this point we’d have no story. However, after much confusion, the crew decided to review the play under MLB’s instant replay rules, which allows the umpiring crew to review only whether a ball is actually a home run or not.
Having invoked the rule, there were two possible outcomes: 1.) Not a home run. Which keeps Pence at second. or 2) Home run: Which brings two runners home.
Joe West decided to use instant replay to clear up his original blown-call and calls Pence out on fan interference. Joe West single-handedly decided to expand the rules around instant replay.
Baseball has always been a game of human error. By both players and umpires. And as such baseball has become a wonderful metaphor for life. From the time millions of kids put on their first Little League uniform we are taught the value of teamwork, the benefits of follow-through. We’re taught that as we take the field we should bring cap and glove to any teammate stranded on base. We’re taught to clear the home plate area for any runners behind us. We’re taught to back up our teammates. And most of all we’re taught to respect the umpires. Even and especially when they don’t get it right. The game, just like life, isn’t always fair. And we learn how to be better people by how we react to those moments that life, just like baseball, isn’t fair.
It’s called building character.
Baseball, with it’s mistakes, with it’s lack of clock, without its TV timeouts, prepares us for life. In life there’s no instant replay.
Except that yesterday Joe West, who in 2010 was ranked the 2nd worst umpire in the league, decided to expand the role of instant replay in baseball all by himself. Joe West opened the door for instant replay further than it’s ever been opened. Joe West opened the door for our children to cry out that things are unfair, stomp their feet and call out for an instant replay. Sadly, he won’t be there when a cute girl decides to go out when someone else, or when you don’t get the job you were more qualified for, or when you get blamed for something your brother did, or when someone butts ahead of you in line. And sadly, because Joe West chose to single-handedly change the game that taught us how to deal with a world that can sometimes be unfair, we may not have the character to deal with those situations.