By sheer luck, baseball has avoided a major controversy over the quality of its umpiring during this World Series.
On Saturday night, umpire Tom Hallion called Carl Crawford safe on a close play at first. He was out. Crawford scored a key run in the Tampa Bay Rays' rally to tie the score. But the Philadelphia Phillies came back and won it in the ninth, so a travesty was averted.
On Sunday night, umpire Tim Welke called Jimmy Rollins safe when he had clearly been tagged out before sliding back to third base in the first inning. Rollins then scored the Phillies' first run of the game. They ended up winning big, so the call was relegated to a minor subplot. But it sure didn't seem minor at the time.
Both calls were easy to judge on television replays, which leads to the obvious conclusion that Major League Baseball should institute a more extensive replay system. There's really no excuse for allowing runs to score on incorrect calls that would be reversed after 30 seconds of umpires staring at a video screen.
I'd like to see an NFL-type system that would allow the managers to challenge a small number of calls per game and would give the umpires discretion to review close plays. I wouldn't extend it to ball-strike calls because the strike zone is more subject to individual interpretation and because ball-strike challenges could slow games to a disastrous extent.
But bang-bang plays at the bases are really no different from in-bounds vs. out-of-bounds judgments in the NFL. Baseball has already acceded to replay on close home-run calls, so why not extend the system a bit more? It's always better to get these things right.