Missed call sways Matheny to expanded-replay camp
CINCINNATI -- You can now count Cardinals manager Mike Matheny as a solid proponent of expanded replay.
The Cardinals believed that they were victimized by a bad call in Saturday night's 4-2 loss to the Reds. Replays conclusively supported their position.
But Matheny's discussion of the topic on Sunday was much more thoughtful than angry.
"You just want the right thing to happen," Matheny said multiple times.
Matheny has had reservations in the past regarding expanded replay, and he still does, to an extent. But this episode moved him into the pro-expanded-replay position.
With two on and two outs in the ninth inning and the Cardinals down, 4-2, on Saturday, Carlos Beltran hit a smash to Todd Frazier at third. Replays showed that Frazier's throw to first baseman Joey Votto pulled Votto off the bag. But first-base umpire Phil Cuzzi called Beltran out. Instead of the Cardinals having the bases loaded and Matt Holliday at the plate with the tying run in scoring position, the game was over.
"I've given this a lot of thought," Matheny said. "It's just a shame. How does that game turn out if that call is reviewed? If it's reviewed, they overturn it. I think there was enough evidence. We've got their closer [Aroldis Chapman] with our third-hole hitter and that's just great baseball."
Where Cuzzi was positioned on the play, behind first, he essentially had to look through Votto to see the ball. Matheny ran onto the field to ask Cuzzi to request help from other umpires who may have had a better view of the play. Cuzzi, however, proceeded to leave the field.
"You just want the right thing to happen," Matheny said. "That's what I was trying to explain [Saturday] night. You've got a chance before you guys walk into your locker room to get together and try to figure out the right thing. The system isn't allowing it.
"I've always been kind of, 'I don't know,' [on expanded replay], because once you open up Pandora's box, it can get pretty dicey what that ends up looking like and then logistically how to pull it all off. Where do you draw the line?
"But to get something, moving forward, for a play like that, it dictates a game. And I think you've seen enough of them this year. Major League Baseball would probably say we've seen too many of them. I think it's one of those years when the writing is on the wall.
"And I know they're making moves, they're doing tests all over the league, they're trying to get their hands on how it would look. But it's fresh enough in our minds that it's obvious we'd like to have it."
Matheny favors a system in which an official who is not part of the umpiring crew would rule on replays.
"I think you need to have him separate from the [umpiring] crew," Matheny said. "There's so much loyalty in the crew and I get that, I want that in here [the clubhouse], so I don't know why they wouldn't want that out there."
The current situation, Matheny said, with replay cameras showing umpiring mistakes puts the umpires under the spotlight, but the mistakes going uncorrected creates a difficult set of circumstances for the umpires.
"This is not a good situation for them, either, because the game is so hard on [the umpires] now," Matheny said. "I mean, everything, it's amazing what these cameras can do now.
"I get it that they're in a tough spot. But we've got guys fighting against one of the nastiest pitchers in baseball, trying to put something together. So we're not going to have a whole lot of sympathy. We only want what's right.
"There's not going to be a perfect science, but I think making steps in using the technology, I don't know why it wouldn't [work]. And I think it would help the umpires, too. It would take some of the pressure off them. I imagine they heard from somebody [Saturday night]. That influenced the course of the game.
"I just think this helps the game out, the review process. I knew what I saw and I had no hesitation in going out there. If you know you're right, why would you keep your mouth shut? I saw the foot off the bag."
And so, Matheny, a man who is not at all drawn to controversy, did not keep his mouth shut.
Sunday night, the Cardinals, with the best record in the Majors at 41-22, defeated the Reds, 11-4, in 10 innings. In the course of the evening, Cuzzi and Matheny had a between-innings discussion that was described by the manager as "civil." Saturday night's episode was far from forgotten, but it was closed.
"We had an opportunity to talk about last night and put that behind," Matheny said of the discussion with Cuzzi. "I commend Phil on that. I've had discussions with umpires where we've reminded each other that we've worked together and we haven't had trouble. He wanted to talk about his side and I wanted to talk about mine, and it was civil."
At this point, when someone of Matheny's character takes a position in favor of expanded replay, it cannot be viewed as anti-anybody. It is essentially pro-baseball.
Mike Bauman is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.