In the aftermath of umpire Jeff Nelson's blown call at second base on Sunday, calls for more video reviews in baseball have reached a crescendo. Why should Major League Baseball deny its fans the proper decision when a better alternative exists?
That's how Canadian baseball fans feel watching the MLB international feed of the American League Championship Series on Sportsnet instead of the TBS broadcasts. After almost two days of the Motel 6 version of the American League postseason, the international signal crashed Sunday night, and we were allowed to get back into the Hilton.
First, understand that this is not a Sportsnet decision. MLB wants to provide us fer'ners with a clean feed devoid of U.S. graphics and advertising. Thanks for nothing.This works for Sportsnet perhaps, but (like the stripped-out Super Bowl broadcasts) these broadcasts annoy fans and lack the authority of the host broadcasters.
Gary Thorne is a pro handling the play-by-play on the Sportsnet feed. But Rick Sutcliffe is a wonky alternative for the tandem of John Smoltz and Cal Ripken on TBS. If you wanted a sample of 1980s baseball thinking (besides manager Jim Leyland's bullpen strategy in Detroit), ol' Sutt is your guy.
Sutcliffe rails against situational defensive shifts in the infield that deny a hitter his strength. That the batter never bothers to cross up the defence or that the odds favour such shifts doesn't worry Sutcliffe. To the former Cy Young winner, it just looks goofy stuff dreamed up by baseball nerds. Ergo, it must be wrong. Sutcliffe also has suggested (without evidence) that struggling Yankee Robinson Cano has visual impairment and other Yankees are similarly hobbled.
He also de-cleated struggling Yankee superstar Alex Rodriguez for every sin short of kidnapping the Lindbergh baby. Yes, A-Rod deserved some flak for selfish at-bats, but his behaviour in being benched or removed for a pinch hitter was otherwise professional.
Who You Calling a Jeter?
Perhaps our biggest beef is the absence of the virtual strike zone widget. This has become indispensable for fans who want to know whether the umpire is making accurate calls. FOX and TBS have used it extensively. MLB is probably disinclined to spend extra money on the non-Americans paying for the games. Or create a debate about why we don't use 21st-century technology to call balls and strikes.
More MLB production values – when New York Yankee Derek Jeter collapsed on Saturday with a fractured ankle, the MLB producers provided no replays of what happened till well after a commercial break. We got lots of isos of guys spitting and fans looking glum. And speculation. But no replay for approximately five minutes.
Bucking The Traffic
Speaking of FOX, a tip of the battered fedora to Joe Buck who, in the words of MLB legend Ernie Banks, thought it a great day to play two in San Francisco. Buck did the Sunday afternoon call of the NFL game at Candlestick Park between the 49ers and the New York Giants. Then he sped up highway 101 in a jaunty bus to call the Giants-St. Louis Cardinals MLB game. FOX's blimp shot captured his car, O.J. Simpson-like, speeding up the busy road. Some producer deserves an Emmy for the idea.
The plan was fraught with pitfalls over time and traffic. But the 49ers did Buck a favour by rolling over late in the game, allowing Buck's partner Troy Aikman to quip, "I know of one man in the stadium who is happy the Giants are winding down the clock quickly by just running the ball in-bounds … so Joe, you can stop looking at your wrist-watch."
Buck's NFL game ended at 4:25 p.m. (PT). MLB also helped, delaying the first pitch from 5:07 p.m. (PT) to 5:15 p.m. A nice career highlight for Buck, who, a year ago, thought his career might be over with throat problems.