The next time someone argues that instant replay will unacceptably slow down baseball, remember this: Between the umpire conference and Mike Matheny's argument, it took four minutes and 26 seconds to get an obvious call right.
With Boston threatening in the first, Pete Kozma couldn't handle the turn on a would-be double play. He clearly muffed it. But Dana DeMuth blew the call completely. Meeting with a pool reporter after the game, DeMuth explained that he didn't actually see the ball glance off Kozma's glove, and so assumed it had been lost in the transfer to his throwing arm.
"My vision was on the foot. And when I was coming up, all I could see was a hand coming out and the ball on the ground. All right? So I was assuming...It's an awful feeling, especially when I'm sure that I had the right call."
The other five umpires were just as sure that DeMuth had it wrong. Upon conferring, crew chief John Hirschbeck wanted to know one thing: Did everyone else see the same thing he did? "I hear all five of us say, 'We're 100 percent,'" Hirschbeck said. "And then I said, 'All right, we need to change this.' It's as simple as that."
Matheny came out to argue, and after the game said, "It’s a pretty tough time to debut that overruled call in the World Series," but his heart wasn't in it. He saw what we saw, but it's a manager's job to pretend otherwise. (Kozma was a little more forceful in his denial of reality: "I was a little shocked, because they had a guy right there and he saw what he saw." Well, Pete, he admitted he didn't see it.)
It's possibly the first instance of an overturned call in a World Series, and it could be the last, thanks to the expanded instant replay rules coming next season. It sheds light on a couple of the potential problems with the system.
First, the fact that reviews will be overseen by a control room in baseball's central office, adding needless delays to the process. MLB trusts its umpires enough to overturn a call on the field; why not trust them to make the same decisions with the benefit of replay? Have Hirschbeck go under a hood, or to a TV screen back in the clubhouse, and that call is reversed in under a minute. Or even better, have a fifth umpire (or seventh, in the playoffs) in the building and give him the final say.
Second is the inherent worst-case scenario of a challenge system. Say John Farrell had already used the one challenge he's allowed in the first six innings, and lost. He'd be powerless to force MLB to review an obviously blown call like this. If the institution of replay is about getting calls right, and it ought to be, then get the calls right. Don't hold accuracy hostage to an earlier, unrelated play. Again, this could be solved by giving the umpires on-scene discretion on when to review.
These are nits that can be worked out once the system is in place. Instant replay is long overdue, and by eliminating manager arguments, could actually cut back on the time of games. We welcome it wholeheartedly; This is the final year where millions of fans on their couches have more and better information than the professional umpires actually deciding the World Series.