Reviewing fresh angle after reversed angle after same-old angle, TBS’ Cal Ripken and Ron Darling may not have been able to have a definite opinion on whether pinch runner Dee Gordon was safe on a critical stolen base attempt in the top of the ninth inning tonight in Game 2 of the Dodgers-Braves NL Divisional Series.
But their honest conversation, overlaying the non-stop video, sure made for a compelling climax as the Dodgers’ late rally fell short in a 4-3 loss.
The question hinged on: When did Braves shortstop Andrelton Simmons field the throw on the bounce from catcher Gerald Laird and make contact with the left hip and/or left foot of Gordon, who slid in head first?
Gordon leaped in “wide-eyed disbelief,” said Dodgers play-by-play man Vin Scully after second base umpire Mike Muchlinski made the call.
After the first TBS replay, it looked as if it could go either way.
Following the second replay, Ripken proclaimed Gordon was safe. Many chimed in on Twitter in agreement.
But by the fourth replay, Darling wondered where Simmons actually caught the ball.
During the fifth replay, Ripken said it was too tough to tell, pointing out that Simmons made the catch and kept the tag down, without lifting his glove like a shortstop would tend to do naturally. Because, of course, someone like Ripken would know that.
After the sixth replay, from a center-field point of view to see more of Gordon’s hand reaching the bag, Ripken was now a bit more confident – out, because he could see Simmons’ glove grazed Gordon’s leg.
“If the tag was on the back of the foot, then he was safe,” Ripken concluded.
By the seventh replay, however, Darling brought up another premise: “If (Simmons) tagged him the first time, why did he reach back and tag him a second time on the foot?”
Before the eighth replay froze on the screen – perhaps the technical equipment finally seized up — Ripken admitted: “That’s a good question.”
But Ripken stuck with a belief that Gordon was out.
Albert “Scooter” Vertino, executive producer and vice president of content, Turner Sports, explained how important it was for the crew in the truck to turn everything upside to find anything that could define the call.
“There are certain go-to cameras for all kinds of situations, and if a runner is stealing a base, the director knows which camera to call and the producer knows which one to go for the replay,” said Vertuno.
“The high-third camera will usually give a clear view. This time it didn’t. If you have a super slo-mo that gives you 120 frames per second, versus the regular replay that’s 30 frames a second, we go there next. We still didn’t have a clear view.
“Now, we went to a high first-base look – following the runner from behind. Still we couldn’t see the hand or the tag. Next, we tried our new ‘rail camera’ behind the outfield fence. That was still a little murky.
“Finally we had a center field camera shot that could show the throw and Simmons’ tag.
“Remember, during all this, the game is continuing. A pitch would be thrown, and then, to the producer’s credit, he didn’t stop looking for that definitive look. Because that’s our job.
“Nothing is more frustrating when you can’t find the absolute camera angle replay, no matter how big a game is, but especially in one of this importance. You simply cover as many angles as you can, you empty the bag, as we say, going from one machine to the next, and you get what you get. And as you could see from the replays of both Laird’s reaction and Gordon’s reaction, both thought they were right. Unfortunately at the end of the day, it was very hard for anyone to say safe or out.
“And to Ron’s and Cal’s credit, they were straight shooters and didn’t sugar coat it.”
A proposal brought up by MLB commissioner Bud Selig in August – with Braves president John Schuerholz as part of the committee presenting it — asks for expanded replay to start in 2014. It will be voted on in November. Any change must also be negotiated with both the players and umpires union.
To date, only fair or foul ball calls, or home run boundary calls are in play to be reviewed. Trap plays were added to the recent basic agreement.
Which plays will be up for review in this new plan have yet to be determined, as some are concerned too many options could slow down and interrupt the flow of a game.
The proposal is to allow managers a certain number of challenges at various times in the game to call for a review and see if there enough conclusive evidence to overturn a decision made on the field.
Even on this play, had Dodgers manager Don Mattingly challenged it, it would be difficult to have the out call overturned based on all the angles TBS provided to the viewers, which would have been also available to replay officials.
Had the play been overturned, the Dodgers could have ended up with the tying run on second base with one out, changing the complexion of that inning.
“TG for instant replay in 2014 #safe,” tweeted out Jim Bowden, the ESPN MLB analyst and former big-league general manager.