No Replay, No Problem – And The Vet Vote

Two things to consider about the General Managers’ decision not to make a decision on expanding videotape replay: A) whatever it is, baseball has almost always done it, and B) once it’s been done, baseball has almost always done more of it, later.

This is just a brief list of the things the game’s protectors and magnates have guaranteed would never, ever, happen to the great traditions and sanctity of our private world:
1. Overhand pitching
2. Integration
3. Videotape replay
4. Night games
5. Batting helmets
6. A players’ union
7. The American League
8. The banning of the spitball
9. Farming out players to the minors
10. Universal radio broadcasts. Well, okay, radio, but no television. All right, television, but never cable.

Video replay did not celebrate its first anniversary late this season; it celebrated its tenth. In October 13, 1998, third base ump John Shulock threatened to eject me and my six-inch NBC monitor from the reporter’s well next to the visitors’ dugout at Yankee Stadium for Game Six of the ALCS, because he thought some of the Indians players might have been able to see a replay of a call Ted Hendry didn’t do a very good job on at second. Seven months later, on May 31, 1999, the venerable ump Frank Pulli decided he couldn’t decide whether Cliff Floyd’s blast in Florida was a home run or not. So he went over to a tv cameraman and asked if they’d show him some replays. Pulli decided that per the grounds rules, Floyd’s blast had been incorrectly called a homer and was in fact a double, and he so ruled. The National League got mad at him. 
Replay was fully and suddenly introduced in 2008 – by this year it played a vital role in the regular season and the World Series. Now the GM’s have demurred. Within eighteen months there will be a video replay rulebook issued to every ump and manager and included in every media guide. You watch.
FOR YOUR HALL OF FAME CONSIDERATION:

Everybody except me seems to have a vote in one of the 87 committees that may elect some managers, umpires, and executives, to Cooperstown next month. I’m in favor of putting in all deserving candidates and I really don’t care if we put it to voice vote at Dodger Stadium one night, just so long as we honor the deserving.
So here is a yes/no on each of the candidates, without getting into the woods of who’s doing the voting or how:
Manager – Charlie Grimm: No. Longevity, not results.
Manager – Whitey Herzog: Yes. 
Manager – Davey Johnson: No, but close.
Manager – Tom Kelly: Yes. Rebuilt that franchise.
Manager – Billy Martin: a controversial Yes. There’s an amazing stat on him: he only had nine full seasons of managing. Eight of those nine teams finished first or second. 
Manager – Gene Mauch: I’m sorry, no. Presided over two of the worst collapses in history.
Manager – Danny Murtaugh: You know what? Yes. Two World’s Championships, and in his last stint (1970-75) he won the second of them, and a division in four of the other five years.
Manager – Steve O’Neill: No. See Grimm.
Umpire – Doug Harvey: Yes. 
Umpire – Hank O’Day: No. There are about a dozen deserving umps. Not him. Whoever you think was right in the Merkle game, his ruling was wrong. It was either a New York win or a forfeit, not a tie.
Executive – Gene Autry: No. Bringing the A.L. to Southern California would’ve been done 20 years before he did it, had it not been for Pearl Harbor.
Executive – Sam Breadon: Yes. Saved the Cardinals from bankruptcy or moving in the ’20s, built a dynasty with Branch Rickey.
Executive – John Fetzer: No.
Executive – Bob Howsam: No. The Frank Robinson trade gets you into Cooperstown?
Executive – Ewing Kauffman: No. An elegant, dedicated man.
Executive – John McHale: No.
Executive – Marvin Miller: Yes. For good or for ill, his impact for changing the game was comparable to Babe Ruth.
Executive – Jacob Ruppert: Yes. The Yankees were a joke before him.
Executive – Bill White: Yes. Could qualify in this role, or as a player, or as an announcer. Get him in there!

17 Comments

About baseball’s resistance to change: one of Bill Veeck’s endless array of innovative ideas was the kind of draft that is now used so that the Yankees wouldn’t sign every available player. He once said if owners had their way, umpires would still sit in a rocking chair by the mound and wear a top hat.

About replay: I am certain that this happened, that it was when Bart Giamatti was president of the National League in the late 1980s, and that the umpire was Paul Runge, a tremendous longtime NL umpire, son of a great AL umpire and father of a current major league umpire. If I recall correctly, Runge had a close call and happened to see it replayed on one of those big screen scoreboards. He immediately walked off the field, got on the phone to the press box, and asked to see the replay. He did and changed the call, then told both teams to protest the outcome to Giamatti, who upheld him, saying he was not going to penalize an umpire for doing his best to get a call right.

On the Hall of Fame, oh, Keith, Sam Breadon simply had Branch Rickey doing all of the work and then pushed him out when he felt Rickey was too costly and no longer necessary–and once Rickey’s farm clubs produced champions through 1946, the Cardinals were quiet for a long time. I am not buying that one.

Also, you want to exclude Hank O’Day, who spent about 40 years in the game as a player, manager, and umpire, because you disagree with ONE call? You have to do better than that. And Davey Johnson is not even close. Just no.

But kudos on both Marvin Miller and Doug Harvey. That the players on the committee did not put in Miller is not just a crime and a blunder, but utterly disgusting. Not only did he change baseball, but he stopped the idea of unrestricted free agency, which would have made things very bad, indeed. Harvey is the best umpire I have ever seen. There’s a clip on You Tube of a Dodgers-Astros game in 1980 with the Western Division championship on the line and both benches start to clear. He jumped between the two players who wanted to fight, got them separated, and cleared the two teams out. No way most umpires would have been able to do that.

Let me get this straight – *you* were threatened with ejection because one ump made a bad call, and another ump was covering for him. Charming. It’s always nice to hear about an authority figure who is more concerned about justice than cronyism. Pulli, on the other hand, did the right thing, and deserves respect for doing so. Somehow, I get the feeling that video replay will not be so well-utilized in the future, and bad calls will continue to be upheld.

@greenm1 – I must respectfully disagree with you on the Hank O’Day issue. Saying it’d be wrong to exclude him “because you disagree with ONE call” since he “spent about 40 years in the game”…that’s like saying, if a guy was a driver for 40 years, he shouldn’t be prosecuted just because he ran into ONE cop car and totaled it.

Merkle’s reputation was destroyed by that “one call”, as you put it. Adding insult to injury, the call was based on a rule that had never been enforced, until O’Day made that call. It’s Hank O’Day, not Fred Merkle, who should’ve been labeled “Bonehead”.

Don’t forget Gabe Paul, who is also on the ‘executives’ ballot. I’d say ‘yes.’

Unpaka, I appreciate the reply, and you make a good point. Let me clarify. I’m not saying Hank O’Day should be in the Hall of Fame. I should have been clearer: that Keith should have had a better argument. Now, I follow your argument, but I wouldn’t want to use the distinction you drew.

I’d also add that one of the best umpires I have ever seen made the worst call I have ever seen–in the 1978 World Series, when Reggie Jackson was not called for interfering with the throw by Bill Russell. Frank Pulli was the umpire–not a Hall of Famer, but excellent at his job. Similarly, it’s a shame that Don Denkinger had 30 years of excellent service as a major league umpire, but he always will be remembered for blowing one call. Unfortunately, it’s the nature of the profession. Even Harvey missed one in a World Series game that turned out not to change the outcome, but he didn’t enjoy any more than the victim of the missed call did.

Why is it that Jacob Ruppert is not in the Hall of Fame already? It’s scary to contemplate the thought that Steinbrenner could get in a few years from now, and Ruppert won’t be there.

Along with that, Danny Murtaugh ought to get in as well.

I am a Twins fan, but there is no way that Tom Kelly belongs in the Hall of Fame. He had a losing record as a manager and the Twins would not have won two World Series under him had it not been for the Metrodome. Also, one could argue that Andy MacPhail rebuilt that franchise as GM, not Kelly as the manager.

I didn’t think that Bob Howsam took the GM’s job in Cincinnati until the 1967 season. I thought that Frank Robinson was traded to Baltimore after the 1965 season. If he didn’t make the Robinson trade, he should be in the Hall Of Fame. If he did, I agree with Keith. It was the worst trade the Reds ever made.

That’s quite a list you compiled there. I think you left out the untitled Keith Olbermann Baseball-themed CNBC weekend show from that list. Here’s a thought on replay. Consider what tennis does as a model. I wrote something about that, mostly as a joke, earlier in the season, but I think it has some merit. Do it for all line calls, and find some way on home run calls too (you can do anything with technology these days). No long reviews. Put it up on the video screen, the electronic system says in or out, everyone sees it, and move on before the pitcher stiffens up. If the call was wrong, either replay the pitch (fair/foul) or call it a ground rule double or home run (fence calls).

http://rememberingshea.blogspot.com/2009/10/bad-call-down-line.html

HHRr3x Good point. I hadn’t thought about it quite that way. :)

I think you’re wrong about Davey Johnson, but then you don’t really appreciate the Mets and that may be influencing your decision. He was a notable player, are you forgetting his stats? And he was a great manager who more than deserves to be in. Anyway, I’d sure like to know your reasons for that “No, but close”.

Greenm1, thanks for clarifying what you meant. I understand your point about good umpires making bad calls, but here’s why I think the Hank O’Day one is so much more significant.

It’s one thing for a call to ruin the umpire’s own reputation, or even to change the outcome of an important game. Things like that happen, and they’re very unfortunate. What makes O’Day’s call so atrocious is that 1) he enforced a rule that had never been enforced before, 2) it unfairly destroyed the reputation of a rookie player, and 3) O’Day “let a similar play stand up when a base runner didn’t touch second at the conclusion of a game earlier in the month.” (Quoting from sports.espn.go.com). This makes the call hypocritical at best, deliberate at worst, and there is just no excuse for either.

As for whether Keith made a good argument, I think it’s important to point out that he’s been making good arguments about that call for decades. So it would be rather redundant for him to go into detail here, when his points are readily available on the web. :-)

Unpaka, thanks. I appreciate your points. And I’ll add that on baseball, I agree with Keith about almost everything (Not the Yankees! Not the Yankees!), and he and I share the conviction that if God spoke, the voice would sound remarkably like Vin Scully’s. Politically, he and I agree most of the time, too.

The odd thing about Fred Merkle’s reputation is that the public associated him with the idea of committing a boner, and his fellow players always thought he was one of the brightest baseball men they ever met. Maybe we should be asking the public why they were so dumb about Merkle!

Keith,

Your logic relating to Billy Martin makes no sense.

First off Martin finished 3rd in 1983 and 5th in 1982. He had 10 full seasons of manging when you include the strike years of 1981 & 1972. The teams’ seasons were shorten but Martin was there the entire year, so it’s 8-10 as far as 1-2 finishes for a full season of managing. If you don’t want to include 72 & 81, then he was 6-8 in full baseball seasons finishing 1-2.

Davey Johnson was 11-12 in 1-2 fnishes with 5 first place finishes. If Martin is a HOF manager with 8-10 in 1-2 finishes with 5 first place finishes, 1 WS, why isn’t a Johnson a HOF manager with 11-12 with 5 first place finishes and 1 WS??

And Dick Howser was 5-5 in full seasons with either 1-2 first place finishes and a WS. He even had a first place finish during the second half of 1981.

Good call on Howsam. Only off by 2 years.

Howsam did not trade Frank Robinison. He was not a member of the Reds’ organization when the Robinson trade took place. Keith has his information wrong.

Re: greenm1 : ‘On the Hall of Fame…Sam Breadon simply had Branch Rickey doing all of the work and then pushed him out when he felt Rickey was too costly and no longer necessary–and once Rickey’s farm clubs produced champions through 1946, the Cardinals were quiet for a long time. I am not buying that one.’ – I will buy and think this helps the case for Sam Breadon. Cardinals were on the brink, with no previous World Series appearances, and serious financial problems before Sam Breadon’s 1917 investment and, after he sold in 1947, they were quiet for sometime as greenm1 comments. I do not think this is a coincidence. Branch Rickey was a baseball genuis and think Sam Breadon’s genius was business, along with a high appreciation for the Cardinals, and allowing Branch Rickey to do his work. And think Sam Breadon may have been more involved with the baseball operations per his role with the Rogers Hornsby trade for Frankie Frisch after the ’26 World Series (Hornsby never again had the great years that he had had with the Cardinals, and Frankie Frisch became great with the Cardinals). Think Cardinal’s legacy and tradition is great, and to understand this need to look at Sam Breadon’s role. If not for Sam Breadon very possible that the Cardinals go bankrupt and / or move, and think he made a very significant contribution to the Cardinal legacy (and to Baseball, given the Cardinals’ tradition) and, with success of the Cardinals under his tenure (9 World Series appearances 6 Championships in his 30 years), think bar must be very high for an owner if he is not elected to HOF. All the best.

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