Instant Replay's First Foul-Up

Don SpielesCorrespondent ISeptember 3, 2008

The game just went final: Yankees 8, Rays 4. A score that should make Red Sox fans very happy. Even with a late run by Tampa in the ninth, Alex Rodriguez's top-of-the-ninth, two-run homer wasn't needed. That's a good thing, because it makes instant replay's first failure a little less disgusting.

After a 12-pitch marathon at-bat by Bobby Abreu, which ended in a two-out walk, A-Rod came to the plate. Troy Percival's 1–2 fastball was just inside enough to get a ball call from the home-plate ump.

Rodriguez turned the next heater into a rocket, a monster shot, high over the left-field foul pole. More accurately stated, just to the left and high over the left-field foul pole.

A-Rod knew it. He didn't run. Rays catcher Dioner Navarro knew it and promptly freaked out when the umps initially signaled a home run. The ESPN announcers got all giddy, making quips about being part of history: The first use of instant replay in an official major-league game was about to occur.

The bad news? They botched it. The camera view that ESPN showed, and the one available from, clearly showed the foul pole, with its extension positioned above the catwalk. The ball soared high and then obviously struck the catwalk, to the left of that foul-pole extension.


Joe Maddon, the Rays manager, immediately came out to join Navarro in his plea. As per the rule, the crew chief, stationed at second, called for the replay, and the umps all went into the dugout. The ESPN commentators filled the 2:15 with the usual banter, until that same crew chief walked out of the dugout, circling his finger over his head to signal the home run.

It's possible that they did not see the same view that everyone watching ESPN or, but if so, why did they not see that view. Supposedly, when they call into Instant Replay Central in New York City, they have access to all TV feeds, home, away, otherwise.

It also begs this question: Why, when instant replay was designated to only be used for disputed home run calls (as in fair or foul) that part of that installment didn't include cameras that look directly from home plate to each foul pole?

Being that the home run played no direct bearing into the game's outcome, the blown call will most likely not be made into a large deal. Nevertheless, instant replay's first try has proved to be an instant failure.