In the eighth inning Sunday at Wrigley Field, the Cubs' Kerry Wood picked the Marlins' Brett Hayes off second base. It's a no-brainer of a call; you can see that and I can see that. Unfortunately, second base umpire Lance Barrett -- who, as you can see below, was right there, perfectly positioned to make the call, did not see that. He called Hayes safe.
Had the correct call been made, the inning would have been over with the game tied 4-4. Instead, the Marlins went on to blow the game open against Wood, scoring three runs. That's obviously not the umpire's fault -- but Wood should never have had to face additional hitters. The Cubs scored a run in the last of the eighth; they might have won the game 5-4.
The result of Sunday's game doesn't really matter; the Cubs are having a miserable season and the Marlins aren't going anywhere, either. However, two weeks ago in Boston, the Red Sox likely got a win they might not otherwise have had, when the Blue Jays' Edwin Encarnacion was ruled out at the plate to end a 3-2 Boston victory. The call looked wrong on replay; the game should probably have been tied and continued. The principal point, however, is that calls like this should be reviewed, so that we get them right and the results of the games accurately reflects what happens on the field, rather than having an umpire's blatant mistake result in runs, or a win or loss, for a team that didn't earn it.
Cubs manager Mike Quade had a recommendation for MLB after yesterday's botched call:
Quade was more upset, saying, "I'm becoming a big fan of replay, even in this game, and I don't give a damn if it slows the game down another hour. Give me a challenge flag or two."
Quade was suggesting a system similar to the NFL's, where coaches have two challenges (except in the last two minutes of each half) they can use to ask for a play to be reviewed. This might work, although managers would have to throw that flag quickly, in order to get a review before the next pitch was thrown.
Here's a better idea: add a fifth umpire to each crew. This umpire would be stationed in the press box with replay monitors, and would be empowered to review plays like the one above, either on a manager's request, or the request of other umpires. You'd have to have a radio system, as they do in the NFL, to notify the crew chief, or perhaps a simpler system: two lights on the press box, green and red. Green means the call on the field is correct, red means it's wrong. I'd subject the following plays to review: home runs (already done), fair/foul, safe/out (like Sunday's) and caught/trapped.
This would eliminate the ridiculous manager/umpire arguments we now see -- and managerial suspensions, too, since managers would know they could request review and get it. It wouldn't slow games down any more than the arguments do, and in many games you wouldn't see this come into play at all. There are very few games that have more than one or two plays that are close enough to have review necessary.
To me, it's really a no-brainer. Get the calls right; keep managers in the game; prevent players from getting suspended from bumping umpires. Umpires, you'd think, would be in favor of this, too, as it would create 15 more full-time umpiring positions. You'd rotate the booth umpire with the rest of the crew.
I don't agree with those who claim the "human element" is important. Tell that to Armando Galarraga. We have the technology available to assist the humans in getting the calls right. All three other major sports have reviews. Baseball has dipped its toe in the water with home-run review; it's way past time to expand it to everything except balls and strikes.