Farrell: 'Human element' alters replay

ByGordon Edes ESPN logo
Sunday, April 13, 2014

NEW YORK -- Major League Baseball's replay system was designed to mitigate the human element in umpiring decisions. Instead, after coming out on the wrong side of replay calls in each of the last two games, the human element is surfacing in a different, troubling form, Red Sox manager John Farrell said Sunday night.

"It's hard to have any faith in the system,'' Farrell said after Boston's 3-2 loss to the New York Yankees.

Farrell became the first manager in the major leagues to be ejected for disputing a play that was reviewed on replay after umpires reversed their call on what would have been an inning-ending double play in the fourth inning. Once the call was reversed, the Yankees were credited with a run that would not have counted had the original call stood.

That run ultimately proved to be the margin of victory for the Yankees.

Initially, first base umpire Bob Davidson called the Yankees' Francisco Cervelli out at first after he grounded to third baseman Ryan Roberts, who threw to second to force Kelly Johnson, with second baseman Jonathan Herrera then making a relay to first baseman Mike Napoli.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi challenged the call, and after consulting MLB's replay center, crew chief Brian O'Nora announced that the call was reversed. That brought out Farrell from the visitors' dugout, and only moments into an animated discussion with the umpires, he was ejected by Davidson.

"We felt that it was clear that the replay was inconclusive,'' Farrell said, "and the frustrating part is that when this was rolled out and explained to us, particularly on the throw received by the first baseman, we were instructed when the ball enters the glove -- and not that it has to hit the back of the glove -- is where the out is deemed complete.

"At the same time, any angle that we looked at, we couldn't tell whether [Cervelli's] foot was on the bag behind Mike Napoli's leg, so where this became conclusive is a hard pill to swallow. And on the heels of yesterday, it's hard to have any faith in the system, to be honest with you.''

In Saturday's game, Farrell asked umpires to review a call at second base, where Dean Anna of the Yankees was deemed to have arrived safely on a double to right field. Farrell said he saw video replays that showed Anna lifting his foot off the bag while Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts was applying the tag; replays shown on networks broadcasting the game showed similar images. But after a replay review, umpires allowed the call to stand. MLB admitted Saturday night the call should have been reversed.

"There's going be a learning curve,'' Farrell said. "But again you'd think a video replay would be conclusive or there are plays where it would not be conclusive, which was tonight. We ended up on the wrong side both times.''

Replay was approved by both MLB and the players' union in January, and team managers and coaches were briefed on the system in spring training. The rule states, in part: "The Replay Official will look at the video feeds and determine if there is clear and convincing evidence to overturn the call on the field.'' In Farrell's opinion, obviously, the evidence was "clear and convincing" on Saturday's tag play but the call on the field was upheld, and it was not "clear and convincing" on Sunday's play at first base, but was reversed.

"As much as they're trying to help the human element,'' Farrell said, "it seems like it's added the human element at a different level.''

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