A "Challenge" replay system not right for baseball 

It's Aug. 18, 2014. The Giants are recharged and the Los Angeles Dodgers are in town for a three-game set with first place in the National League West on the line.

The score is tied 3-3 with no outs in the bottom of the ninth when Angel Pagan hits a slow roller to third base and beats the throw by half-a-step. Or did he?

Manager Don Mattingly throws the challenge flag and the game is stopped. You glance up at the clock in center field and notice it's already 10:30 p.m. You need to be up for work in less than eight hours.

The game is delayed for several minutes before review officials in New York rule that there isn’t enough video evidence to overturn the call. Then, Marco Scutaro steps into the batter’s box and strikes out after fouling off six straight fastballs in a lengthy 12-pitch at-bat. It’s 10:50 p.m.

Brandon Belt is up next, which sends Mattingly to the bullpen for a lefty, leading to another break in the action. It's almost 11 p.m. by the time Pagan gets caught stealing second on a 2-2 pitch. The play is close, but Pagan looks like he's out from the dugout.

Nevertheless, Bruce Bochy asks the umpires to give it another look because he has two challenges in his pocket. It will give Belt a minute to cool down and forget about that questionable strike-two call on the outside of the plate.

The action resumes after a few more minutes. Pagan is ruled out, as expected, but the challenge pays off when a refocused Belt extends the inning by drawing a walk.

At this point, Mattingly goes back to the bullpen to get a right-hander to face Buster Posey and it's 11:15 p.m. before the former-MVP steps into the batter's box.

Despite the pitching change, Posey slaps a single to right. You're thrilled that you stuck around until you see Mattingly signal for another left-hander to face Roger Kieschnick, who's pinch hitting for a slumping Hunter Pence.

At 11:30 p.m., Kieschnick loads up the bases by nubbing out an infield single. It's another bang-bang play that Mattingly challenges to give his right-handers more time to warm up in the bullpen. In doing so, he also settles down the crowd by the time Joaquin Arias steps in to bat more than an hour after Pagan led off the inning.

This story gets a happy ending, though. Arias scores Belt with an unambiguous single up the middle and you get to see the nine-inning game reach its conclusion before midnight.

This example might be extreme, but it shows why Major League Baseball can't go to a "challenge" system when it institutes video replay next season. The proposed plan will make a slow game even slower and lead to abuses by managers looking for strategic edges.

The point of replay is to reverse the most egregious calls to ensure the game is decided on the field. This can be done efficiently by putting an eye in the sky in every stadium, avoiding the long, boring "inconclusive" evidence disruptions that we see in almost every NFL game.

A number of plays in the Giants and A's games last week showed the need for advanced replay — kudos to baseball for its willingness to push the game into the 21st century. But if it's going to take this leap, it needs to get the call right the first time and establish review umpires in every stadium.

Paul Gackle is a contributor to The San Francisco Examiner. He can be reached at pgackle@sfexaminer.com and followed on Twitter @GackleReport.

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