Why replay wouldn’t have fixed the controversial foul ball call in Thursday’s Phillies-Marlins game

Bob Davidson’s controversial call in Thursday’s Phillies-Marlins game, depriving the Marlins of the potential game-winning run, has sparked yet another round of calls for baseball to adopt instant replay, even among Phillies fans… except there was nothing replay could have done in this instance, and not just because there wasn’t a camera in proper position to make absolutely certain that, just because the ball bounced fair before the bag and fair after the bag, that necessarily meant it was fair as it crossed the bag.

Once the ball is called foul, the play is dead. The fielders stop going for the ball, the runners stop running the bases, and you can’t make assumptions about what might or might not have happened had the play continued. Yes, the runner on second probably would have scored, but how can you say that for certain? What if there would have been a play at the plate? Every sport with replay has this same problem (think when a completed pass is called incomplete); at best, you could do with tennis does and say the pitch doesn’t count, taking away a strike if there weren’t two strikes already.

There was a similar play in last year’s postseason where a fair ball (more indisputably fair than in this instance) was called foul. But in that case, the ball bounced into the stands for a ground-rule double, making it fairly straightforward to determine the outcome of the play – similar to how baseball currently determines whether a home run was fair or foul. You can’t use replay in circumstances where the actions of the players would determine the outcome of the play if it hadn’t ended.We all want baseball to get with the 21st century and adopt replay, but let’s not get too carried away.

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