The play above was a crucial moment in today’s ALDS game between the Royals and Astros. Down 3-2 with two outs in the top of the seventh, Royals pinch runner Terrance Gore attempted to steal third base. Despite beating the throw and the tag easily, Gore was called out—not because the umpire blew the call, but because instant replay is ruining everything.
Astros manager A.J. Hinch challenged the play, sending the umpiring crew to a replay review. They determined that after sliding in safely, Gore’s foot popped off the bag for a brief moment, and that he was therefore out because the third baseman’s wrist (which I guess is part of the glove?) was still pressed against Gore’s body. If you watch the GIF above enough times, you can see why the umpires reversed the call, and you can even understand that Gore was, technically, out.
This isn’t really the kind of mistake instant replay was meant to rectify. There are certainly moments in which replay is a very good thing to have—determining if a home run really cleared the top of the fence or whether a ball is fair or foul come to mind—but the game is not served well when it’s used as a tool to reverse plays based on a base runner’s momentum popping his foot off the bag for a fraction of a second. Bases are hard, and I bet that if you looked at every slide in super slo-mo, you’d see a lot of feet popping a few millimeters off the bag for a split second. When a guy who’s functionally safe—and would be called such in most circumstances—gets called out like this, it makes the game more arbitrary, not less.
Today’s game isn’t even the first time there’s been a review like this in these playoffs. An almost identical play was reviewed, but not overturned, during Game 2 of the ALDS, and some Blue Jays fans are still parsing the pixels in this screenshot, convincing themselves that Rougned Odor was out:
This is the kind of shit that makes watching the NFL so unbearable sometimes. Just this past weekend we saw another catch-that-somehow-isn’t-actually-a-catch erase a perfectly good touchdown reception. Replay is generally a force for good and there’s no going back now anyway, but it will always open the door for incredibly aggravating fuckery. Nobody knows what a catch even is in the NFL anymore, and now MLB is getting to the point where the same can be said about stolen bases.