Last Night's Winner: The Case For Robot Umpires

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In sports, everyone is a winner—some people just win better than others. Like the fallibility of man, or at least of third base umpire Bob Davidson, whose blown call cost the Marlins the game.

Bottom of the ninth; tie game; Hanley Ramirez at second, Gaby Sanchez at the plate. Then, this happened:


Regardless of the Fish protest, it was called foul, the Marlins couldn't get Ramirez around, and would go on to lose in extra innings.

I hope you stuck with the video to watch the calls from both the Marlins' and the Phillies' announcers, because both are delightfully homerish. The Miami guys freak right the fuck out, raising their voices and yelling at Davidson, as if he could hear them. The Philadelphia announcers don't understand what the fuss is about: they're convinced the ball was foul, then went fair once it passed third, then went foul again. Some sort of magic ball, if you will. ("I couldn't tell" is universal announcer-speak for "that's a blown call that went in favor of my team.")


After the game, Marlins manager Edwin Rodriguez said it was the worst call he'd seen in his 30 years in game. Davidson would stick to his guns and insist it was a foul ball.

And now the clamoring begins, if not for robot umpires, then at least instant replay.


And yet, the handwringing won't be anywhere near the level after Jim Joyce cost Armando Galarraga a perfect game, which is counter-intuitive. All Joyce did was deprive one player of an ultimately meaningless personal accomplishment. Davidson cost a team a game. And gifted a win to a team in a pennant race.

Currently baseball's dip in the shallow end of the instant replay pool consists of checking out disputed home run calls. But is a maybe-homer in a 9-2 game that much more important than, say, a 9th inning double in a 4-4 game. Obviously not.

But, you know, slippery slope. How about balls and strikes? A gifted ball four could be a winning run that never was; a missed strike three extends an at-bat that could end the game.

Oh, if only there were a simple solution to baseball's instant replay dilemma!

Oh wait, there totally is: Managers may challenge any on-the-field call, until one of their challenges is unsuccessful.


There ya go. Fixed your sport for you.