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A Modest Rule Proposal: Cool Plays Should Be Unreviewable

Screenshot: TBS

The final out of Brewers baseball this season felt painfully appropriate. See Christian Yelich at the plate, bat on shoulder. See the 0-2 pitch from Will Smith, a hanging slider. See Christian Yelich’s bat, still on shoulder. Oof. October for the Brew Men went the way their September suggested it might. They scored just six runs in four games against the Braves, and until they did it twice in the fourth inning of Game 4, hit 0-for-20 with runners in scoring position. Put simply, these guys did not have the juice. (A quick check-in with the Juice List: The Dodgers, Red Sox and Astros have the juice. The Giants and Braves do not have the juice. Not taking questions or feedback at this time, thanks.) 

This blog is not really about the Brewers, or juice, or the satisfaction of organizing thoughts into lists in one’s Notes app at strange hours of the night. It is about this:

In the bottom of the fourth, Adam Duvall hit a pop-up into foul territory. The ball bounced awkwardly off the bottom of Brewers catcher Omar Narvaez’s glove, but third baseman Luis Urias happened to be there to make a diving catch for the out. Very cool! Immediately, though, a slow-motion replay showed the ball might have hit the dirt before Urias got it in his glove. Less cool. Disillusioning, even.

The play was not reviewed, and for the simple reason that baseball has rules, dammit, and such plays cannot be reviewed. From MLB.com:

The Braves took a quick look at replay, and they thought the ball hit the warning track first, so they wanted a replay review. One problem: while a fly ball or line drive caught by a fielder in the outfield is reviewable, a fly ball or line drive fielded by a player in the infield is not eligible for a review, unless it is “proximate” to a stadium boundary (backstop, protective netting or other out-of-play areas).

The umpires checked with replay officials in New York to make sure they were correct in their understanding of the rule and to make sure the ball did not contact the netting behind home plate.

Moments like these are often met with calls to expand the list of reviewable plays. “That replay decision makes no sense,” tweeted ESPN baseball guy Buster Olney. I understand the human desire for justice and certainty, but I think this would be a bad idea. Consider, instead, contracting the list. Modern adult life offers so few opportunities to simply marvel. If a little delusion—temporary ignorance—is the price of having some cool things we can see and believe in, that seems a fair one to pay. Let’s add one sentence to this rule: “Also, fly balls or line drives fielded in a cool way are not eligible for review. If the play elicits some gasping, clapping, perhaps a little ooh!-ing, the headset shall not be picked up and the frame-by-frame video shall not be played.”

The exact ethics of this may seem wobbly; someone is always on the wrong end of a cool play, after all. But this guideline scans less problematic when you accept that baseball is governed by karmic forces that ensured the “wronged” team in this situation won anyway. Braves catcher Travis d’Arnaud even suggested the call may have helped the team in a sense. “I think the coolest thing was—I get it that that call was unreviewable, but the crowd, like, really got into it and it fired us all up,” he said. “And we were able to tie it back up that inning.”

Perhaps you recoil at the idea of living a lie. But what is truth, anyway? Let’s just have cool things.