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Astros-Red: Finally, a Game Worth Watching

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Leave it to the Houston Astros to lose a game on a disputed home run the day that it is announced that replay will soon be used to determine disputed home run calls. In the eighth inning of a surprisingly good pitcher’s duel between the Astros and the visiting Cincinnati Reds, Reds catcher Ryan Hanigan took a pitch from Astros reliever Geoff Geary and hit it off of the left field façade for a one-run homer. There was, of course, a problem, because of the color of the façade above the yellow line being a light color that blends with the baseball, it was difficult to determine if the ball was really a homer or not. The umps called it a home run, and because replay isn’t supposed to be implemented in Minute Maid Park until


, there was no replay review of the call available – of course, if you were like me, and watching the game on Fox, you know that replay was pretty damn inconclusive, and since MLB says that the replay must show clear and convincing evidence for a call to be reversed, the home run call would not have been reversed.

The Astros lost last night 2-1 to fall back to the five hundred mark. But here’s something I haven’t been able to say in a long time about an Astros game. I enjoyed last night’s game, despite the loss. Amazingly, given that Wandy Rodriguez and Bronson Arroyo were pitching, the game was a pitcher’s duel. Rodriguez did that thing he does that so pisses off most of the baseball fans in Houston, he pitched a great game, which the Astros will then use to talk about how he is turning the corner – never mind that the Astros brass has been making this same argument for several years now.

I will give Rodriguez some credit though. That was a hell of a game he pitched last night. He pitched seven innings while giving up only three hits and one earned run while striking out ten batters. The only problem was that for this game, Bronson Arroyo was even better. Arroyo pitched a complete game – the first this season for any Reds pitcher – while giving up only five hits, all singles, to completely shut down the Astros offense for the second straight game (Mike Pelfry pitched a complete game for the Mets against the Astros on Monday night).

The 66-66 Astros play the Reds again tonight. Roy Oswalt (11-9, 4.33) will match up against Josh Fogg (2-6, 7.66). And we can only hope that this game is as good as the one last night.


Hanigan’s home run is a perfect example of a home run that will probably fall under the purview of the replay review. And it’s a perfect example of why replay review is not going to be the panacea that MLB wants us to believe it will. The Houston Astros TV broadcast on Fox Sports showed multiple views of the home run – these are the same broadcast video feeds that will be sent to New York then sent back to umpiring crew in the stadium for review – and none of the replays were conclusive.

The problem is the Minute Maid Park façade, or whether, the color of the upper portion of the façade in left field that is above the yellow line. It’s kind of a very light beige color, and Hanigan’s home run ball was lost when it blended with the beige. As such, it was impossible from the replay to definitively tell where the ball impacted on the fence. And since there must be clear and convincing evidence to overturn a home run call, Hanigan’s home run would have accounted.

This is going to be a problem at MMP. This has happened several times this year, and each time, the replays available for the viewer – which are those the umpires will have – are inconclusive. And they’re inconclusive because the flight of the baseball tends to blend into the beige of the façade. Or it blends into the white of one the ad panels on the outfield wall, as also happened earlier this year, and when this happens, replay isn’t much of a help to the umpiring crew because they just can’t make out the ball – in the instance of the home run and the white ad panel, the Fox Sports people did blow up the replay to show that the umpire’s call was correct and that it was a home run, but it took over half-an-hour for them to get that video blow-up. Is the game supposed to stop for thirty minutes because of the replay?

I’ve got nothing against the replay, it’s just that, as last night showed, it’s not the cure-all to end-all. Despite what Bud Selig says.

********************** And speaking of Astros on the television, it’s nice of them to keep the Astros listed in the wild card standings when they flash those on the screen during the game. The Astros are 11 games out of the wild card with 30 games left to play, so even though the Houston Astros are producing the telecast, and even though Bill Brown and Jim Deshaies are employed by the Astros, maybe it’s time for a little realism to start creeping into the coverage. – John Royal

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