MLB Replay Experiment Could Cost San Francisco Giants A Playoff Spot

By John Shea
Joe Panik San Francisco Giants
Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

It’s difficult to pinpoint distinct variation in overall wins and losses for teams via the new MLB replay system, which was enacted prior to this season, but it’s becoming increasingly clear that baseball’s shortsighted experiment is causing more problems than good, especially for the playoff hopeful-San Francisco Giants.

The Giants’ recent 4-3 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers isn’t a deal-breaker in their attempt to reclaim control of the NL West, but the manner in which it happened is baffling. It’s often said that referees—or in this case umpires—seldom dictate the outcome of games. Good teams overcome “bad calls” and make good on something that seemingly didn’t go their way when it should have.

The current MLB replay system doesn’t leave room for that.

It’s totally possible—if not probable—that San Francisco would have lost even if rookie second baseman Joe Panik had been ruled safe (as he was initially) with two outs in the top of the ninth inning on a bang-bang play. First-base umpire Hal Gibson III called Panik safe on a slow bouncer up the middle of the infield that Brewers second baseman Rickie Weeks bobbled before firing to Mark Reynolds.

In real time, it appeared like the throw beat Panik, but slow motion replay indicated inconclusive evidence that not even famed NFL referee Ed Hochuli would have dared overturning.

If Panik were to be dubbed “safe,” slugger Brandon Belt would have taken his cuts against Milwaukee closer Francisco Rodriguez with two runners on base in a one-run game. Belt has struck out twice in two career at-bats against Rodriguez. So, it’s not as if the Giants’ throat was slit on a wince with a big inning waning large, but fans will never know, regardless.

Replay is not only causing a stir on questionable safe-out calls, but it’s now also taking away from some of baseball’s most intense moments with games on the line.

NBA officials often get the brunt of the blame for iffy foul calls, but seemingly always let the players dictate the outcome when the clock begins to wind in the fourth quarter. Baseball’s replay system doesn’t leave room for unwritten rules. After all, an out is indeed an out—but is it really an “out” if professional call-makers need to stare at television screens for more than three minutes to make their decision of mortality for a given team?

San Francisco’s tough-luck defeat marks the second time this season they’ve been the victims of an overturned call on the 27th out with the other time coming on defense against the Pittsburgh Pirates on May 6. After speedy outfielder Starling Marte became the winning run on a play at the plate of the Giants’ 2-1 loss against Pittsburgh three months ago, ESPN’s David Schoenfield raised the question of if this is what MLB had in mind when integrating replay into the game.

The realization that this was likely never intended is devastating in the worst way because it was probably never a topic of conversation in Bud Selig‘s circle. It could also severely alter playoff standings as the season begins to dwindle.

Selig is famous for the All-Star fiasco which previously adopted the slogan “This One Counts”—so much so that replay was born in baseball on a whim and nobody is really sure that it’s actually working the way it was meant to.

The National League is tight-knit as eight teams vying for five spots prepare for the final stretch run. San Francisco remains in striking distance of the Los Angeles Dodgers in the West and also has a solid chance of earning a playoff spot as a wild card team. Without replay, the Giants could potentially be in an even more advantageous position, though.

If the orange and black fail to make the playoffs by a mere game or two, replay could very well be a big reason why.

John Shea is an MLB writer for Follow him on Twitter @cutthroatpicks. Like him on Facebook or add him to your network on  on Google.

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