Three strikes: Replay, unhittable Jimenez, Harper’s home

Stan McNeal analyzes three hot topics in Major League Baseball:

Strike 1: Just say no to instant replay

As soon as the first replay aired to confirm that Jim Joyce’s bad call had cost Armando Galarraga a perfect game Wednesday, baseball’s cyberspace was screaming: "Replay! Replay! Replay!"

No, no, no. Please. Three reasons why replay might be an easy topic for the media to puff out its collective chest about but should not be expanded:

Jim Joyce's blown call has brought out calls for instant replay.
Jim Joyce’s blown call has brought out calls for instant replay.

1. There is no ideal system.
Before replay was introduced in 2008 to assist on home run calls, opponents were wary for one reason: Limited replay would lead to more replay. So here we are.

Where would it end? Would it be used on close calls at first, home, every base? To determine trapped catches? What about balls and strikes? Proponents likely would not be satisfied until a robot is calling balls and strikes. After all, if the goal is to get every call right, that is what would be needed.

And who would decide when it would be used? Let’s say some silly system is instituted that would allow managers to challenge a certain number of calls. Say the limit is three. What if Jim Leyland had used up his challenges before the 26th out Wednesday night? Then what?

2. Instant replay it is not.
By the time umpires gather, watch and re-watch a disputed play and make their final decision, instant replay becomes more like three-minute replay. Baseball already has lost countless fans because of its slow pace. Building in another drag to the game is needed about as much as the Yankees could use a larger payroll.

3. Mistakes are part of the game.
Everyone makes them. Bill Buckner, Grady Little, Don Denkinger and, now, Jim Joyce. Players, coaches and managers don’t have the luxury of technology to reverse their errors. Umpires, who are just as much a part of the game as anyone on the field, should not either.

Baseball is a great game, with the emphasis on game. Money already has sapped much of its charm. More replay would take away even more.

Strike 2: Ubaldo for MVP

Ubaldo Jimenez is not only the obvious early choice to win the NL Cy Young Award, he also is an easy call to take home MVP honors. This is one time when a pitcher’s wins say a lot.

After 53 games, the Rockies are three games over .500. In Jimenez’s 11 starts, they are nine games over .500. Every one of his 10 wins is legit, too. The 26-year-old righthander has yet to give up more than two runs and has worked at least six innings in every start.

"Without him, we’d be brutal," says Rockies general manager Dan O’Dowd, who is not surprised with Jimenez’s ascension. "You never know when a lightning bolt will turn on. Everyone around him knew he was this capable once he slowed himself down, learned to pitch to contact and stay within his delivery. This is a great kid who doesn’t dream about being good. He has a tremendous desire to be the best, and his work habits are consistent with that."

A veteran scout doesn’t disagree. Asked to name the starter he would most want on the mound for a Game 7, he doesn’t hesitate. "Jimenez. His stuff is far away the best right now. I would choose him over Roy Halladay because his stuff is so good he can afford to make mistakes. Roy’s margin for error is less."

Strike 3: Harper and his future

Seventeen-year-old Bryce Harper is expected to be the first pick in Monday’s draft. Not quite as certain is where he will play. Catching has been his main position, but most project Harper to wind up in right field.

According to one evaluator who has been running his teams’ drafts for more than 20 years, Harper should excel wherever he plays.

"I thought he was a big goon who had power until I saw him," the executive says. "He’s got a great arm and he’s pretty athletic — much more than I thought. I saw him play center field and while he’s not going to play center (in the majors), I can see him playing right field real quick."

If the Nationals, who are picking first, decide to put Harper behind the plate, his time in the minors likely would last longer than if he plays the outfield (think that has anything to do with Scott Boras wanting him there?). "Learning a lot of the stuff catchers have to learn generally takes another year," the executive says. "But he could be an average — or even a hair above average — defensive catcher in the big leagues if he’s willing to grind through the learning process."

Still, this executive expects Harper to end up in right field "unless his club has such a huge, gaping hole behind the plate." And if it’s set at catcher? "You’ve got a helluva power-hitting right fielder that’s pretty athletic."

Stan McNeal is a writer for Sporting News. E-mail him at smcneal@sportingnews.com.

Stan McNeal analyzes three hot topics in Major League Baseball:

Strike 1: Just say no to instant replay

As soon as the first replay aired to confirm that Jim Joyce’s bad call had cost Armando Galarraga a perfect game Wednesday, baseball’s cyberspace was screaming: "Replay! Replay! Replay!"

No, no, no. Please. Three reasons why replay might be an easy topic for the media to puff out its collective chest about but should not be expanded:

Jim Joyce's blown call has brought out calls for instant replay.
Jim Joyce’s blown call has brought out calls for instant replay.

1. There is no ideal system.
Before replay was introduced in 2008 to assist on home run calls, opponents were wary for one reason: Limited replay would lead to more replay. So here we are.

Where would it end? Would it be used on close calls at first, home, every base? To determine trapped catches? What about balls and strikes? Proponents likely would not be satisfied until a robot is calling balls and strikes. After all, if the goal is to get every call right, that is what would be needed.

And who would decide when it would be used? Let’s say some silly system is instituted that would allow managers to challenge a certain number of calls. Say the limit is three. What if Jim Leyland had used up his challenges before the 26th out Wednesday night? Then what?

2. Instant replay it is not.
By the time umpires gather, watch and re-watch a disputed play and make their final decision, instant replay becomes more like three-minute replay. Baseball already has lost countless fans because of its slow pace. Building in another drag to the game is needed about as much as the Yankees could use a larger payroll.

3. Mistakes are part of the game.
Everyone makes them. Bill Buckner, Grady Little, Don Denkinger and, now, Jim Joyce. Players, coaches and managers don’t have the luxury of technology to reverse their errors. Umpires, who are just as much a part of the game as anyone on the field, should not either.

Baseball is a great game, with the emphasis on game. Money already has sapped much of its charm. More replay would take away even more.

Strike 2: Ubaldo for MVP

Ubaldo Jimenez is not only the obvious early choice to win the NL Cy Young Award, he also is an easy call to take home MVP honors. This is one time when a pitcher’s wins say a lot.

After 53 games, the Rockies are three games over .500. In Jimenez’s 11 starts, they are nine games over .500. Every one of his 10 wins is legit, too. The 26-year-old righthander has yet to give up more than two runs and has worked at least six innings in every start.

"Without him, we’d be brutal," says Rockies general manager Dan O’Dowd, who is not surprised with Jimenez’s ascension. "You never know when a lightning bolt will turn on. Everyone around him knew he was this capable once he slowed himself down, learned to pitch to contact and stay within his delivery. This is a great kid who doesn’t dream about being good. He has a tremendous desire to be the best, and his work habits are consistent with that."

A veteran scout doesn’t disagree. Asked to name the starter he would most want on the mound for a Game 7, he doesn’t hesitate. "Jimenez. His stuff is far away the best right now. I would choose him over Roy Halladay because his stuff is so good he can afford to make mistakes. Roy’s margin for error is less."

Strike 3: Harper and his future

Seventeen-year-old Bryce Harper is expected to be the first pick in Monday’s draft. Not quite as certain is where he will play. Catching has been his main position, but most project Harper to wind up in right field.

According to one evaluator who has been running his teams’ drafts for more than 20 years, Harper should excel wherever he plays.

"I thought he was a big goon who had power until I saw him," the executive says. "He’s got a great arm and he’s pretty athletic — much more than I thought. I saw him play center field and while he’s not going to play center (in the majors), I can see him playing right field real quick."

If the Nationals, who are picking first, decide to put Harper behind the plate, his time in the minors likely would last longer than if he plays the outfield (think that has anything to do with Scott Boras wanting him there?). "Learning a lot of the stuff catchers have to learn generally takes another year," the executive says. "But he could be an average — or even a hair above average — defensive catcher in the big leagues if he’s willing to grind through the learning process."

Still, this executive expects Harper to end up in right field "unless his club has such a huge, gaping hole behind the plate." And if it’s set at catcher? "You’ve got a helluva power-hitting right fielder that’s pretty athletic."

Stan McNeal is a writer for Sporting News. E-mail him at smcneal@sportingnews.com.

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