Inside the Phillies: Botched call shows baseball needs instant replay

Charlie Manuel argues a call with the second base umpire during Saturday's game against the Orioles. (Nick Wass/AP)

BALTIMORE - The Phillies made mistakes in the field and compounded those problems by hitting into a total of four inning-ending double plays during the 6-4, 12-inning loss the Baltimore Orioles pinned on them Saturday.

They fully earned this defeat.

No excuses were offered by manager Charlie Manuel or any of his players after the team's seventh loss in eight games pushed them a season-high seven games behind the first-place Washington Nationals.

"We could have shut them out," Manuel said, lamenting his team's poor defensive performance, a few minutes after Adam Jones launched a two-run home run that gave the Orioles a victory and reliever B.J. Rosenberg a loss in his major-league debut.

Jones' 17th homer ended an exciting game played in an intense, entertaining atmosphere with the sellout crowd pretty much split between Phillies and Orioles fans.

It's too bad an umpire's miscall had to have such a huge impact on the game.

All three of the Phillies' charged errors came in the fourth inning, when the Orioles scored a pair of unearned runs off pitcher Vance Worley to take a 3-2 lead.

There was also a fourth error in that inning. In fact, it was the costliest of them all, but don't bother looking for it in your Sunday morning box score.

In a world where common sense rules, second-base umpire Fieldin Culbreth's gaffe would have been erased with a 30-second review of instant replay and the Orioles would not have scored a single run in the fourth inning.

"I didn't use to be a fan of instant replay, but, damn, the more this stuff happens, I'm starting to think it might be necessary," shortstop Jimmy Rollins said.

There was nothing the Phillies could do about Rollins' fielding miscue with one out or second baseman Mike Fontenot's inability to catch a two-out Endy Chavez line drive that accounted for Baltimore's second run of the fourth inning.

A correction of Culbreth's mistake would have erased Worley's pivotal fourth-inning error. With one out, Worley fielded a Wilson Betemit roller to his left and tried to nail Nick Johnson at second base. Rollins fielded Worley's low throw on one bounce - he admitted a lot of luck was involved - and replays showed that the shortstop also held the bag at second base.

Culbreth thought otherwise.

"He told me he didn't see my foot on the bag," Rollins said.

That's fine. It was a difficult call because a lot was going on. Like Rollins, Fontenot, and Worley, Culbreth's a human being. Unlike the players' errors though, a mistake by an umpire can be reversed. It happens all the time in sports that have opted for sound and prudent judgment over accepting human error.

Instant replay is like legal steroids for officials in other sports. It's performance-enhancing technology and it is mind-boggling that there is still resistance to it from the people who run baseball - with commissioner Bud Selig being at the top of the list.

Some of the other sports - football, for example - don't have perfect replay systems, but getting things right more times than not is still preferable to the "I-think-I-got-that-one-right" approach of big-league baseball. I've heard umpires actually say they got it right when they missed it by a mile. That should never happen.

If Johnson had correctly been called out at second base Saturday, the inning would have ended without the Orioles scoring when Worley struck out Robert Andino.

Rollins said he has been opposed to instant replay over the years, but a play like Saturday's mishap put his own thoughts under review. Manuel has also been skeptical about replay.

"My theory is if we're going to have a replay for everything, it kind of takes the human nature out of it," he said. "The games are going to be longer. They already talk about the games being too long."

In less time than it took Rollins and Manuel to argue the botched call that remained incorrect despite the delay, a correct decision could have been made by an off-field replay official.

Rollins acknowledged that was true and then continued to explain why he is starting to believe it is time for instant replay in baseball.

"A guy makes a great play and obviously you want to get credit for it," he said. "In other sports, the guy makes a great play, you can go back and look at it and give him credit for it. And if he doesn't make a great play, you can go back and get the call right."

Baseball is different. This is the sport where Armando Galarraga pitched a perfect game two years ago for the Detroit Tigers and didn't get credit for it. This is a sport where Johan Santana didn't pitch a no-hitter for the New York Mets earlier this month, but did get credit for it.

Tell me what planet that makes sense on?


Contact Bob Brookover at Follow on Twitter @brookob.