Close calls swing momentum in Game 2
Double-play rulings help, then hurt Phils in late innings
NEW YORK -- Before Game 2 of the World Series on Thursday night, Commissioner Bud Selig told a group of reporters that recent discussions about the possibility of expanding Major League Baseball's replay procedures haven't caused him to alter his opposing stance.
As fate would have it, a few hours later as the Yankees moved toward their 3-1 win over the Phillies, Selig found himself watching a couple of disputed plays that put more focus on this postseason's umpiring miscues and potentially gave executives even more reason to at least contemplate the possibility of not restricting replay reviews to home run calls.
After the Phillies benefited from first-base umpire Brian Gorman's inability to see that Ryan Howard had trapped Johnny Damon's soft liner before turning a double play to end the seventh, they found themselves upset about the fact that their eighth-inning rally against Mariano Rivera ended with Gorman ruling that Chase Utley hadn't beat Derek Jeter's double-play relay to first base.
"I'm not saying nothing about the umpiring, I'm just saying that he was safe," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. "That's all I'll tell you. I'm not complaining about the umpire. I'm not saying nothing at all about the umpire. I'm just saying that he was safe."
If MLB's replay system extended beyond home run calls, replays would have clearly shown that Howard didn't catch Damon's liner. In addition, after careful review, Utley would have likely been ruled safe, giving the Phillies runners at the corners with two outs in the eighth.
"I haven't seen the replay," Utley said. "I've been told the replay shows I was safe. I was running with my head down, so I don't know. I knew it was a close play."
Adding to the significance of this development, Howard was denied the opportunity to come to the plate to attempt to cut into a two-run deficit.
While Gorman's calls were disputable, Manuel's decision not to put Jimmy Rollins and Shane Victorino in motion before Utley directed Rivera's 3-2 pitch to Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano also put him in a position to be second-guessed.
"There's a lot of things that can happen there, and I definitely wanted Howard to hit," Manuel said. "Plus, Utley don't hit into a lot of ground-ball double plays."
Along with being fearful that Utley could line into an inning-ending double play, Manuel was concerned that with a left-handed hitter at the plate, Yankees catcher Jorge Posada would have had a clear shot to retire Rollins attempting to steal third base.
"I had a couple of things going through my mind," Rollins said. "Worst-case scenario, I was saying, if I'm out at third, the tying run is still at the plate."
Within this scenario of what-ifs, the Phillies actually might not have even had the opportunity to bring the tying run to the plate had an expanded replay system been utilized to review the ball that Howard trapped in the bottom of the seventh.
Unable to hear Gorman's call, Howard made an errant throw to second base while attempting to record what he thought would be a forceout.
When asked if he had thought he'd made the catch, Howard said, "Did I catch it? He called him out."
Had a replay overturned this call, the Yankees would have had the bases loaded with one out and Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez standing as the next two hitters set to face one of Philadelphia's middle relievers.
"Times change, but I'm still in favor of keeping the human element as a part of it and I'm also very concerned about pace," Selig told reporters when asked about replay before the game. "I think there are other ways we can make corrections. During the offseason we'll review everything. I've made my position clear, and by the way, I think it's the position of most people in baseball. You have to be very careful when you tamper with a sport."
Before Game 4 of the National League Division Series, Manuel suggested that he felt there might be a need for MLB to begin expanding its use of replays.
But count his ace, Cliff Lee, among those who believe that the replay system should remain in its current form.
"I think they're out there trying to get it right," Lee said. "Nobody is intentionally trying to screw up the game. So I kind of like where it's at. There are too many ifs and buts if you start doing replays on everything. You've got runners moving and then if you do a replay, where do the runners go? The fair and foul on homers, everything is kind of cut and dry. But with everything else there are too many tangibles."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.