Umpires Miss Calls, Fans Push for Instant Replays

Not once, not twice, but three times in one game, the umpires blew it.

"There were three pretty egregious calls that were caught on instant replay. I don't think anyone would argue that the calls weren't wrong," said Bruce Weber, New York Times reporter and author of "As They See 'Em."

It's been a growing problem in many fans' eyes, exemplified by what happened Tuesday night in the American League Championship Series game between the Los Angeles Angels and New York Yankees.

VIDEO: Outrage Over ALCS Calls
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The first of the bad calls came when the second base umpire called the Yankees' Nick Swisher safe at second base when he tried to get back to the bag on a pick-off attempt. Slow-motion replays show he was tagged out.

Then, Swisher was called out for leaving third base too soon when Johnny Damon's fly ball was caught -- but replays showed he did not.

And then, in the most bizarre play of all, the third base umpire somehow failed to see Angels catcher Mike Napoli tag out the Yankees' Robinson Cano right in front of his eyes.

Napoli had caught Jorge Posada in a rundown, ran him back to third base, as Cano, who'd been on second, eased into third. The Angels' catcher tagged both runners when they were off the bag: first Cano, then Posada.

But third base umpire Tim McClelland, who was also the crew chief, ruled that only Posada was out, because he thought Cano was on the bag. The Yankees second baseman wasn't.

The botched calls hardly mattered in the outcome: The Angels ended up losing the game 10-1, falling behind three games to one in the series to determine which team goes to the World Series.

After the game, McClelland admitted he botched both calls at third.

"I'm out there trying to do my job the best I can. Unfortunately, by instant replay, there were two missed calls," he said.

But it hasn't just been one game. The baseball playoffs this year have been riddled with questionable calls, and downright wrong ones by the umps.

"I think that there have been an unusual number of calls that have been glaringly bad. The umpires are having a bad couple of weeks," Weber said.

Umpires vs. Technology

Today a lot of baseball fans and commentators are clamoring -- not to "kill the ump," as in days of yore -- but for instant replay.

"The umpire stuff has reached a dangerous level for baseball. I'm telling you there better be some serious meetings in the next couple days before the World Series," YES Network sports talk show host Mike Francesca said. YES is the network owned by the Yankees.

Baseball analysts say that Major League Baseball will likely consider the use of instant replay during its winter meetings because of the controversial umpire mistakes during this year's playoffs.

But Major League Baseball and the Umpires Union have resisted expansion of replays because, they argue, it would slow the game down.

"This is the way it's been forever. Why would we change it? Human error is good sometimes. Trust me," said Angels center fielder Torii Hunter.

"It's in the rules that the umpire is there to make the call," Weber said. "That's what the rules of baseball say. The umpire is there to make the call."

Currently MLB only allows the use of instant replay to confirm that home runs were fair balls, or that they cleared the outfield wall.

"The commissioner has stated that he has no desire to expand our use of instant replay," MLB spokesman Michael Teevan said.

Still, football has had instant replays for years -- and so does basketball.

In one sense, umpires have become victims of technology. With all the instant replays -- including slow motion and multiple angles -- shown on TV broadcasts and even on the jumbo screens in stadiums, fans can see clearly when an ump gets a call right or blows it.

"Calls have been missed in huge games in the history of baseball. We just didn't know they were missed," said Tim Kurjian, senior writer for ESPN Magazine.

A growing number of irate fans want the umpires to keep calling them as they see them -- they just want instant replay to make sure they call them right.

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