Baseball Brass Misses Missed Calls

Steve Murray
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Wednesday - November 18, 2009
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In between bites of brats, deep-dish pizza and other hardy Midwestern fare, baseball’s general managers got down to the business of correcting the obvious and easy-to-fix deficiencies that have recently become all too evident.

After weeks of ample televised evidence, the GMs gathered in Chicago to hammer out ways to restructure the Arizona Fall League and make changes to the annual amateur draft.

If for even a nanosecond you thought that, in the wake of the embarrassing and brutal umpiring in the playoffs and World Series, MLB would look at expanding instant replay, then you obviously haven’t been paying attention.

Much like Senate members who won’t bring a bill to vote unless the ayes have the majority and the president has stowed his denial-inducing veto pen, baseball’s general managers are not going to waste time discussing an idea that the commissioner has already shot down on numerous occasions.

In the ever-confused mind of Bud Selig, any admission of imperfection in baseball is tantamount to proclaiming that Jesus Christ couldn’t hit a curve ball. It’s blasphemy. Baseball is perfect, and until its obvious failings become either a public embarrassment or the subject of government scrutiny, no changes will occur.

Remember, baseball didn’t have a drug problem until players started getting busted with more cocaine than Tony Montana. Baseball didn’t have a steroid problem until performance-enhancing drugs became a subject line in a State of the Union Address, and it didn’t warrant testing or real concern until baseball leadership was called before a pandering Senate committee.

Baseball needs instant replay. Any excuse for maintaining the status quo is just laughable.

Replay calls cannot destroy the continuity of a game that has built in pauses and routine halts of play for commercials, coaching, conferences and pitching changes. Delays won’t take long, because the game lacks the tangle of bodies that make similar decisions in football time consuming. Reversed calls will not take away the human element, upstage umpires or infect the system so greatly that officials will go to the television screen to check every ball and strike.

One of baseball’s greatest virtues is its embrace of history and resistance to change. Replay, however, is one adjustment that must be made, but won’t until real leadership invades the commissioner’s office.

A final note from the Chicago meetings:

Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak admitted the team’s new hitting coach will have to address the media about his alleged used of performance-enhancing drugs. When this will happen and how honest Mark McGwire will be is still to be determined. McGwire has never been open about his personal life, and both Mac and the team were taken by surprise when the information about his hire was leaked. The Cardinals scrambled to control the message while McGwire remained hidden from public view.

Judging by his Senate testimony, it’s hard to believe that he’ll suddenly open up about his past and fulfill his promise to become a leader in the fight to keep performance-enhancing drugs away from teenagers. It is more likely he’ll dance around the issue with vague references to the possibility of perhaps doing something wrong and even issue an even more encrypted apology. And why not? The Cardinals obviously don’t care about mixed messages, and nobody has been a stauncher supporter of the former first baseman than manager Tony LaRussa, who treats any inquiry of McGwire’s potential guilt as an insult of the highest category.

Eventually, McGwire will take his seat in front of the Cardinals’ banner with either LaRussa or another team official at his side for a short meeting with the press before being whisked from the room with many questions left unanswered. It is unlikely this will happen anytime soon, and that would be a major mistake.

Delaying the inevitable will do nothing to answer questions and will only create greater speculation regarding McGwire’s past and how it will affect his new students. By waiting until the beginning of spring training, the controversy that is sure to follow will override anything happening on the field.

The Cardinals have only one real choice, but don’t expect them to take it.

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