June 20, 2018

Rambling On about My Post Glory Days: Bring on the Red Flags

October 23, 2009 by · 2 Comments 

I am not usually a bandwagon jumper, but it has been very difficult to watch the game I love during these baseball playoffs. When I played major league baseball, I never was close to being thrown out of a game so I am not normally an umpire basher. I recall umpires as being very good, hard working and mostly consistent. I also do not enjoy watching NFL football video replay stops when a coach tosses the red flag. I never thought I would say this, let alone write it down, but I believe it may be time for “Red Flag” baseball.

After watching this year’s playoff baseball, I recognize the need for the flag football idea. I have no choice but to jump on the bash the umpires bandwagon, but for a different reason than most. Obviously, they have missed many calls on the base paths as everyone has seen. I honestly feel like they are just in a slump or are feeling the pressure, which happens to everyone. Just like hitting and pitching, making incorrect calls is contagious and runs in cycles.

What bothers me is how wrong they seem to be on pitched balls. I can only assume the technology is correct with the strike zone box and the pitch location designated by the pitch tracker. Why then does it seem like the umps miss one out of every four or five pitches according to the pitch tracker. They are right there, three feet from the strike zone. It gets funny in my home when my 92-year-old mother raises her hands and says, “What did he call that?”

It is inconceivable to watch a hitter battle like crazy and then get called out on a pitch that is clearly way outside the TV box. It happens both ways of course, a pitcher makes a great pitch in the box, only to be called a ball and then the batter follows the call with a base hit. I thought baseball was always concerned with the integrity of the game and concerned with what the kids are thinking. Kids watching, like my mom, must be shaking their heads wondering about fairness.

With this in mind, here goes my plan. Every player begins the game with one red flag in their pocket; managers get two and starting pitchers get three. Players can choose to throw their personal flag whenever they feel wronged on pitched balls. If they are proven right by replay they get to keep their flag to use for a future call. If replay proves them wrong, they lose their flag and cannot contest another call that game. Same goes for managers, they can object to base calls as long as they have a red flag to use. Relievers would receive one flag when they enter the game. Players have a four second time limit in which they can toss their flag. Immediately after a flag is thrown, the replay booth makes the replay call within thirty seconds and then play resumes. Once again, there is no arguing of calls, just a quick review after a thrown red flag.

No worries; game times may even be quicker because arguments are no longer allowed. OK, pretty ludicrous I know; but at least there is more fairness and I can enjoy watching games again. Maybe a more plausible solution is to get rid of those boxes and pitch trackers. They really don’t make watching the game more enjoyable, at least for me. It is more enjoyable to wonder if the ump was right or wrong as opposed to knowing they are wrong so often. I understand they will be wrong at times; I just don’t want so much proof. So, for the integrity of the game, let’s get rid of those strike zone boxes and pitch trackers.

Former major leaguer Jack Perconte is the author of The Making of a Hitter (http://jackperconte.com) and has a baseball instruction blog that can be found at www.baseballcoachingtips.net. He has recently published his second book Raising an Athlete – How to Instill Confidence, Build Skills and Inspire a Love of Sport 


2 Responses to “Rambling On about My Post Glory Days: Bring on the Red Flags”
  1. Susan Foster says:

    In response, Jack, to your interesting and creative ideas, I do think games would become so long that what little TV audience baseball can attract, more fans would be lost. With every player have one or more red flags, 30 seconds isn’t really 30 seconds. By the time, they throw the flag, the powers to be watch the video, the result is communicated, and play resumed, most interruptions would still be 60 seconds or longer. Multiply this by the number of red flags available, and the potential for a game under three hours would rarely exist any longer and four hours would be the norm.

    As a former local, national and international official, it is so easy for anyone to cast judgement on any close call. I officiated in Barcelona in 1992 in a venue that had one full section of TV monitors so those with a visual impairment could watch the competition on a screen. The problem was that anybody could see those video monitors and watch instant replays of every single call made. Lest I say more.

    Instead, while this solution probably won’t gain much support, we need to get back to the purity of the game. Get rid of all instant replay and let the game be a game. As you said, players make errors, so, too, can officials. It’s the human nature of the game and what makes it so interesting and exciting. The business of sport and baseball will probably never allow this because the outcome has become too commericialized. It’s too important to be the winner and second place is never good enough.

    Yes, the errors in the baseball playoffs have been observable. Too bad a long and respected career of an official can be judged and tossed aside due to one call. Too bad every single play and decision by the players, the coaches, the sportswriters, and the CEO’S aren’t judged on the TV screen; perhaps sympathy and understanding would be tools in their basket of compassion.


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