The other day I was driving to the office to pick up some files I needed for today. I was listening to Colin Cowherd's radio show, "The Herd," on ESPN Radio when I heard Colin say something that was grating on my ears.
Mr. Cowherd was talking about baseball and statistics. He was arguing that sabermetrics misses a key element of baseball. He said that one ballplayer might have a great on base percentage but that what was really important was who was getting hits and knocking in runs late in games and late in the season. He made the claim that a win in September or October was more important than a win in May or June.
I beg to differ. Every major league team plays 162 games a season over the course of about 26 weeks. The standings don't differentiate between a win in May and a win in October. A win is a win, regardless of when it happens. If a race comes down to the wire and two teams are tied after 162 games, that one game back in late April could have made the difference at the end of the season.
The same goes for when someone gets a hit or scores a run. The most precious commodity in baseball is the out. You only get 27 of them a game. Preserving that out in the first inning is just as important as preserving that out at the end of the game. My point is that over the course of a season, I'd rather have the player with the higher on-base percentage than the player whom the media label as "clutch" because of a game-winning hit here or there. Over the course of the season this notion of "clutch" tends to balance out - but the ability to get on base at a higher percentage and to preserve an out become very important.
We went to my brother-in-law's house for Thanksgiving dinner on Thursday and the Houston-Detroit game was on the tube. As I sat outside having a cold beer and watching my girls frolic in the swimming pool, Dave, my brother-in-law, came outside and told me that the Texans had scored a touchdown when they shouldn't have because the Detroit coach challenged a call he wasn't allowed to. According to the rules, if a coach challenges a call in that situation, the team loses a timeout and cannot benefit from the challenge.
That rule makes absolutely no sense. If the point of instant replay was to make sure the referees get the calls right by allowing certain plays to be reviewed, then not allowing the play on Thursday to be reviewed led to the absurd result that a call that was clearly incorrect was allowed to stand.
As much as I find instant replay to be annoying (hey, if the standard is "indisputable evidence," then if someone has to watch a replay more than once the evidence was obviously disputable), if you're going to have it, I think college football has the right idea. In college ball a replay official sits in the press box and reviews every play during the game. If there is something that catches his eye, he signals down to the field and play is halted. There are no challenges so that the absurd result of the NFL game cannot occur in a college game.