Last night’s Astros-Red Sox game featured a play that pulled every replay-based nightmare out of the shadows: an interminable review process, a call that gets blown anyway, and a game result that hinged on that very same blown call.
In the top of the seventh inning, with the score tied at five, José Altuve dashed home from third base on a ground ball to short. Xander Bogaerts fielded the ball and fired it to the plate, but his throw was high and forced catcher Sandy León to leap and try to make an acrobatic tag on the sliding Altuve. It was an extremely close play, and Altuve was called out, but Astros manager A.J. Hinch challenged the play. Then we all went to hell:
The umpires gathered and stood around for what felt like hours while getting information from the league replay office. Meanwhile, viewers at home were shown dozens of angles of the play, all of which seemed to show Altuve beating the throw. And yet, nearly four minutes after the review process started, Altuve was confirmed out.
This ended up being a pivotal play in the game, as the Sox went on to win 6-5 with a ninth-inning walk-off. It’s hard to be too mad about anything when your team is 89-54 on September 10, but Hinch was pretty fed up afterwards:
There are plenty of angles floating around the internet today showing a gap between León’s glove and Altuve’s shoulder, but it’s not clear if those are angles the replay officials were able to see, or what exactly they were looking at for all those minutes.
More than anything, this is just another demonstration of the inherent shortcomings of video replay. The belief that simply slowing any moment in a game down to a few frames per second will undoubtedly reveal the truth of the situation is folly. Sometimes the right frames remain obscured, and sometimes they raise more questions and more need for interpretation than they do answers. More than that, it just sucks all the fun out of everything. What was a competitive, entertaining game between the two best teams in the league ended up dampened by a drawn out and unsatisfying review process that left one side feeling jobbed.