Replay's Ally—Vin Scully

Tracy’s blinking meltdown compelled a broadcast titan to blow anti-replay arguments away . . .

You can say the name alone and it becomes a nine-letter synonym for greatness. But it’s always nice to be handed fresh reminders as to why Vin Scully’s name became that synonym in the first place. Monday night, for example.

This reminder came down during the seventh inning, with freshly minted Dodger Shane Victorino at the plate. Just about everyone since has been buzzing about everything Scully said for the at-bat, the play, the argument, and the ejection, except two things he managed to tuck in, one in the middle, and one after the meat of it was digested.

What Scully did was remove major further obstruction to those who argue in favour of expanding official replay on tight calls other than hair’s breadth home runs or borderline foul balls.

And this isn’t just another analyst or spoilsport angling to remove, spare us, the “human factor” from a game in which the need to get things right has gone from acute to critical mass only too often. This is baseball’s greatest broadcaster, a man called a national treasure often enough for it to become a cliche, making the argument.

Here was that we just saw, as Scully himself called it. It only began with Victorino lofting a soft rising liner to center that Colorado outfielder Dexter Fowler had to catch on the run, and on the shoestrings, more or less. Or, did he?

All right, three and two . . . There goes [Dodger baserunner A.J.] Ellis, there goes the ball to center field, and a great try catch—yes, catch . . . The second base umpire could not go out, because Ellis was running, and it was the first base, right field line [umpire Mike Esterbrook] ran down to make the catch . . . we had to wait because there was no sign, but you see he did catch it.

So far, so good, even if on the first of two television replays you could make a call that the ball hit the web of Fowler’s glove just a hair’s nanosecond after hitting the center field grass. Onward Scully goes:

No trap. So it was a good call by Mike Esterbrook. [Dodger manager] Don Mattingly is gonna argue . . . 

At this point, the camera is showing another angle, and a slow-motion one at that, from which you might see a hair more clearly that Fowler could have trapped the ball. Scully begins to speak again just as the home viewer sees Fowler finish his knee slide while raising his glove with the ball secure in the web.

Now, Esterbrook is gonna go over and talk to the other umpires. We couldn’t call it, so I just looked at Esterbrook, and he finally called it. Victorino is out on a fly ball, but the umpires are gonna huddle. That’s a good thing, no matter what, you want to make sure you get it right . . . okay . . .

Emphasis mine.

Here, one of the umps began walking toward the Colorado dugout and motioning to Rockies manager (and former Dodger manager) Jim Tracy. The Dodger Stadium crowd hasn’t let up in its gleeful racket, ramping it up with what follows at once. “Uh, oh,” Scully purrs. “Uuhh, oh!” Tracy steps up from the dugout and isn’t going to like what he’s about to be told, as Scully continues.

The meeting looks like they’re gonna call it a trap, and Jim Tracy . . . “He caught the ball,” Jim said. “He caught—the ball. He caught the—blinkin’ ball. He caught the darn ball.” 

Seconds later, with the crowd noise surging a little further, Tracy removed his cap with both hands and thrust it to the ground.

Oh! oh, you’re gone! He’s gone . . . “That—is—blinkin’ fertilizer” . . . I’m doing the best to translate . . . “You’ve gotta be blinkin’ me! The ball, he caught the ball! No way . . . no blinkin’ way . . . no bloody way . . . “

If replay’s good enough for this man, it should be good enough for the Show.

Tracy by now is arguing for whatever he’s blinking worth, since he’s been tossed, about which Scully dryly remarks, “Jim’s gone, so he’s spending house money now.”

That’s where the widely-circulated video clip ends. The bad news is that just about everyone else is having their fun with Scully’s blinking bid to translate Tracy’s tirade. Without the like of Big League Stew to cite it, you almost wouldn’t know Scully also stuck a genteel barb into the craw of those whose arguments against replay include not just the “human factor” but, almost as often, that replay will only delay further games that (allegedly) take “too long” to play as it is.

We have all this technology and they don’t use it because they say it would delay the game. Well, what was that we just saw?

Emphasis mine. Game, set, and match. All arguments against replay should be dismissed from now on as fertlizer. Blinking or otherwise.

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