Reviewing the replay rule


Item: MLB expands instant replay

Just what baseball needs: longer Red Sox-Yankees games.

No one should be against getting more calls right, but there’s a more pragmatic solution: hire better umpires. And fire or retire the bad ones.

Instead MLB instituted a system of challenges which mirrors the NFL’s with everything but the red flags. Perhaps managers can throw their chaw of tobacco on the field instead.

The whole idea of challenges is just pablum for sports talk radio. It creates drama that isn’t necessary. The manager should have used his challenge. No, there were two outs and nobody on. He was right to save it. It’s what passes for controversy the next day.

If the idea is to get the calls right, why limit the crew chief to initiating reviews to the seventh inning and later? Why not simply have a replay umpire sit upstairs and initiate review when he deems it necessary? Is it because a sport that moves at Molina Standard Time goes too fast?

Is MLB’s motivation to get the calls right or to get fans talking? Or both?

There’s nothing wrong with the latter, if it addresses the problem. But when a postseason umpire, whose sole job is to watch the left field line, sees a ball land fair and calls it foul (yes Phil Cuzzi, we’re thinking of you and the 2009 ALDS), the problem isn’t the system but the umpire. Either that, or 225 feet to watch is about 100 feet too many.

In any case, the new replay system will do for umpiring what texting has done for grammar. It may gets the calls right in spite of the process.

Item: Red Sox infielder Will Middlebrooks dating Red Sox NESN reporter Jenny Dell

Conflict of interest? Or confluence of interests?

You can claim there’s no conflict, given Middlebrooks’ 2013 — he batted .227, was sent to the minors once, benched twice and had just two at-bats in the World Series. If Stephen Drew re-signs with the Red Sox, Dell might have to be doing post-game interviews from Pawtucket for there to be a conflict.

And you can also claim — because it’s true — that NESN’s broadcasts don’t do journalism, but promotion. If you’re getting your news and analysis from NESN, you probably still think Ryan Dempster is a good signing and the answering machine is modern technology.

Dell is a former cheerleader, which is ample training for being the in-game broadcaster (for a lot of teams, it would qualify one to be the play-by-play announcer). She’s perfectly capable — she comes on a couple of times a game, does a quick interview as a few pitches go by and then sticks around for the post-game interview (which is rarely Will Middlebrooks). She talks up the Red Sox and looks good doing it.

Most of us are inclined to empathize — young couple meets at work, falls in love, etc. But last winter, according to Boston Magazine, Dell said: “… the important thing is for people to take me seriously as a journalistic reporter, because that’s my job. My old producer … said to me at the beginning, ‘You want to make sure people are talking about the content coming out of your mouth and not about what you’re wearing or how you look that day.'”

If she still wants people to take her seriously, then Dell has to find new employment. You can’t be taken seriously as a reporter if you’re dating your sources.

Item: Yankees payroll at $181 million

No one saw this coming. The Yankees avoided arbitration by agreeing to deals with Brett Gardner ($5.6 million), David Robertson ($5.2 million), Ivan Nova ($3.3) and Shawn Kelley ($1.7). That brought their payroll to $181.5 million, still under the $189 million luxury tax.

Of course, they only have 19 players signed, which will severely limit manager Joe Girardi’s decision-making.

Every year the Yankees say they want to avoid the luxury tax, and every year the Yankees cut a check, as sure as Mariano Rivera saving the game.

Some things change, but not the Yankees’ expenditures. The Yankees can fill in MLB now where it says Pay to the Order Of. At the going rate of $9.5 million per player, the Yankees are going to pay $225 million or more for their 25-man roster.

If they get Japanese pitcher Masahiro Tanaka, that average is only going up, because he’s expected to receive $18 million for 2014. Or more.

There’s nothing wrong with the Yankees’ payroll going over the luxury tax threshold, or $200 million, or $300 million. Pay the players. Pay the tax. But don’t pretend your goal is fiscal responsibility just because the Dodgers are making you look good. In a sport careening toward $300 million payrolls, $250 million doesn’t make you a spendthrift.

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