THE TROUBLE I PREDICTED HAS TURNED OUT WORSE THAN I HAD THOUGHT. In my post of two years ago about the prospect of instant replay, I said about plays at second base: “…instant replay would presumably enforce the rules as written so that the second baseman would have to touch second base, increasing the risk of dangerous collisions. Baseball dealt with this issue when it instituted replay by creating an exception for “neighborhood plays”. On neighborhood plays, the defender is not required to touch the bag.
With the wonders of wikipedia, this wikipedia entry on neighborhood plays already describes what happened after the Utley slide: “Although reviewing a neighborhood play is not allowed, this play was allowed to be reviewed because, according to an MLB spokesperson, it was reviewed under the auspices of a force play, not that of a neighborhood play. Because the odds of successfully turning a double play were deemed low, the neighborhood play did not apply, and so the play could only be viewed as an attempted force-out at second.”
On replay, it was revealed that Tejada’s foot had been off of the bag “by mere inches”. Utley was declared safe. After the review, the umpires went to the Dodger bench and brought Utley back to second base (Utley had not yet touched second and had gone straight to the bench). There was no out at all on the play.
NOTICE: The review penalized Tejeda for his foot missing second base by inches because the umpires determined that the chances of a double play were low. YET: The reason Utley crashed into Tejeda was that he was trying to break up a double play—apparently not realizing that the chances of a double play were “low”.
In other words, replay, as implemented by major league baseball, required precision on the part of the fielder even in the light of a horrendous collision.