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The need for expanded instant replay made obvious

A rash of managerial ejections highlights poor umpiring decisions helping to decide MLB playoff games.

Phil Cuzzi and Tony La Russa - 10/16/05 (AP photo)Until this week, the 16th and last time a manager was ejected during the playoffs was back on October 16, 2005 when Tony La Russa was run by umpire Phil Cuzzi.

From my game report that evening:

In the seventh inning of the NLCS Game 4 at Houston, La Russa barked from the dugout about a walk issued by Jason Marquis. Crew chief Tim McClelland had to step between the manager and Cuzzi multiple times during the several-minute dispute. During the next inning, centerfielder Jim Edmonds was also run by Cuzzi after complaining over a strike call. The Cardinals lost that pivotal contest by a 2-1 score.

At the time, the umpires were criticized for being short-fused and more importantly, the post-season umpiring selection process came under attack. The cronyism system that keeps the best umpires down and allows the bad ones to remain in their jobs year after year remains a problem to this day.

The 2010 Division Series has already seen three managerial ejections, all on close plays in which replays indicated the skippers had good cases to argue.

Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon was run from Game 2 of the AL Division Series on Thursday for arguing a checked swing by Texas’ Michael Young. Maddon was tossed by home plate umpire Jim Wolf after Young hit a three-run home run to give the Rangers a 5-0 lead in a game they would win 6-0.

Later that same day, Twins skipper Ron Gardenhire was ejected by ump Hunter Wendelstedt in Game 2 of his ALDS for arguing balls and strikes. The two have had multiple skirmishes in the past.

Twins starter Carl Pavano appeared to have struck out the Yankees’ Lance Berkman, but Wendelstedt called the pitch a ball. Berkman doubled on the next pitch to put New York ahead 3-2 in a game they would go on to win by a 5-2 score. Like the Rays, the Twins were put into an 0-2 hole in their series.

On Friday night, Atlanta Braves manager Bobby Cox was sent to an early shower in the second inning of Friday night’s Game 2 of the NLDS, eventually won on a Rick Ankiel home run in extra innings. Cox argued that Giants shortstop Juan Uribe‘s throw on Alex Gonzalez‘ grounder pulled Aubrey Huff’s foot off the first base bag on a play that had been called safe. Replays again suggested another missed call.

The same umpire, Paul Emmel, had been involved in what appeared to be a blown call at second base the night before that helped set up the only run of the game in the Giants’ 1-0 Game 1 win. The soon-to-be retiring Cox has a history of ejections, but he had a point here.

Something must be done because again the umpires are making themselves factors in the playoffs instead of remaining a seamless part of it.

Is do-nothing commissioner Bud Selig watching these games? If so, will this finally help push him into engaging the unions in discussions about expanded use of instant replay?

Probably not.

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Brian Walton

Brian Walton runs The Cardinal Nation and The Cardinal Nation Blog, covering the St. Louis Cardinals and minor league system.
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