Every-Thing Sports

To review or not to review, that is the question

To review or not to review, that is the question
Kevin C Cox/Getty Images

Officials have been at the heart of way too many decisions in all major sports. Whether it's a blown call, a call not overturned when reviewed, or a call being apologized for after it has ruined a game, things are getting more out of hand as opposed to them getting any better. I wrote about this earlier this year, but it's time to revisit the issue. There are so many varying factors as to why officiating needs to be addressed, but here are some of the things I think are most critical:

Challenges

Now that all major pro sports have some sort of challenge system, they all need to be fine tuned. What can/can't be challenged, the time in which a challenge can be issued, and how many times a team can challenge a call all need to be fine tuned. I believe the number of timeouts should be tied to the number of challenges. Challenges need to be made in a decisive fashion, which means...

Who makes the final ruling?

Whoever makes the final ruling on challenges needs to be held just as, if not more, accountable as the officials making the calls on the field of play. There needs to be an assigned replay official for every game with a team ready and already reviewing every call to ensure accuracy. They can also serve as feedback for officials' grading process, which factors into which officials and/or crews are allowed to preside over postseason games/series. These people need to be former and/or current officials, along with former players to ensure a balance is there. I say former players because the officials have a way of protecting their own. Prime example: the way NFL refs piss all over the pass interference challenges. There needs to be a more definitive, concise, and efficient way to rule on challenges instead of watching officials look at a monitor with an earpiece in until they're ready to tell the crowd what they've found out.

Postgame press availability

Coaches and players have been made to answer the media's questions pre and postgame for as long as I can remember. While there are specific times in which the media has access to coaches and players, officials have never been called to the carpet when it comes to media availability. The NBA refs has an official Twitter account that answers questions and puts out info from their perspective. Other leagues tend to leave it to the league's official Twitter accounts, or more specifically, the media that covers those sports to put out such info. How much of a game changer would it be to see and hear from the officials themselves? Officials in most sports try to make themselves apart of the action anyway. Why not give them the spotlight so many of them crave anyway? After all, some of them are failed athletes in the sport they're officiating in anyway.

Is there anything I left out? Am I off-base here? What do you guys think? Some that know me will assume this is a reactionary piece to my Saints losing to the 49ers, and they'd be dead ass wrong. This is about the kid who was so fascinated by the September 20, 1993 Monday Night Football matchup of Joe Montana's Chiefs vs John Elway's Broncos on that his parents got a portable TV set that could plug into a cigarette lighter so he could watch the game while we were on a road trip back home. This is about the grown man who's sick of hearing the fans and media alike complain, make excuses, and banter about poor officiating. It's about games that I, and most of you, love to watch that are getting ruined far too often because of what most consider "human error." While technology has made several improvements on officiating, there's still some room for improvement. Let's make this happen dammit! I'm sick of writing about this! it's time for action!

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Astros on the hunt. Composite Getty Image.

With the Astros' surge from 10 games out of first place to within two games of Seattle, catching and going past the Mariners has naturally become the top objective. It's no given to happen but it's right there. In the final series ahead of the All-Star break, while the Mariners are in the midst of four games with the lowly Angels, the last two World Series champions renew (un)pleasantries at Minute Maid Park.

The Astros enter the weekend five games ahead of the Rangers. They lead the season series with the reigning champs four wins to three. While the Astros can't quite finish off the Arlingtonians by sweeping them in this three game set, shoving them eight games back (even further back of Seattle and the current Wild Card teams) and clinching the tiebreaker would seem close to a death blow. Taking two out of three would be fine for the Astros. If the Rangers win the series, they are clearly still in the American League West and Wild Card races coming out of the All-Star break.

Last year the Rangers had the best offense in the AL. So far in 2024 they rank a mediocre eighth in runs per game. Nathaniel Lowe is the lone Ranger (get it?!?) regular playing as well as he did last season. Corey Seager has been fine but not at the MVP runner-up level of last year. Marcus Semien is notably down, as is 2023 ALCS Astros-obliterater Adolis Garcia. Stud 2023 rookie Josh Jung has been out with a broken wrist since ex-Astro Phil Maton hit him with a pitch in the fourth game of this season, though fill-in third baseman Josh Smith has been the Rangers' best player. 21-year-old late season phenom Evan Carter largely stunk the first two months this season and has been out since late May with a back injury. Repeating is hard, never harder than it is now. Hence no Major League Baseball has done it since the Yankees won three straight World Series 1998-2000.

Chasing down the Division at a crazy clip

From the abyss of their 7-19 start, the Astros sweep over the Marlins clinched a winning record at the break with them at 49-44. Heading into the Texas matchup the Astros have won at a .627 clip since they were 7-19. A full season of .627 ball wins 101 games. If the Astros win at a .627 rate the rest of the way they'll finish with 92 wins, almost certainly enough to secure a postseason slot and likely enough to win the West. Expecting .627 the rest of the way is ambitious.

With it fairly clear that Lance McCullers is highly unlikely to contribute anything after his latest recovery setback, and Luis Garcia a major question mark, what Justin Verlander has left in 2024 grows more important. With the way the Astros often dissemble or poorly forecast when discussing injuries, for all we know Verlander could be cooked. Inside three weeks to the trade deadline, General Manager Dana Brown can't be thinking a back end of the rotation comprised of Spencer Arrighetti and Jake Bloss should be good enough. The Astros have 66 games to play after the All-Star break, including separate stretches with games on 18 and 16 consecutive days.

All-Star MIAs

Viewership for Tuesday's All-Star game at Globe Life Field in Arlington will be pretty, pretty, pretty low in Houston. One, All-Star Game ratings are pitiful every year compared to where they used to be. Two, the Astros could be down to zero representatives at Tuesday's showcase. Kyle Tucker was rightfully named a reserve but had no shot at playing as he continues the loooong recovery from a bone bruise (or worse) suffered June 3. Being named an All-Star for a ninth time was enough for Jose Altuve. He opts out of spending unnecessary time in Texas Rangers territory citing a sore wrist. This despite Altuve playing four games in a row since sitting out the day after he was plunked and highly likely to play in all three games versus the Rangers this weekend. Yordan Alvarez exiting Wednesday's rout of the Marlins with hip discomfort and then missing Thursday's game seem clear reasons for him to skip, though he has indicated thus far he intends to take part. Yordan is the most essential lineup component to the Astros' hopes of making an eighth straight playoff appearance.

Ronel Blanco should have made the American League squad on performance, but pretty obviously his 10 game illegal substance use suspension was held against him. As it works out, Blanco will pitch Sunday in the last game before the break which would render him unavailable for the All-Star Game anyway. Blanco is eligible to pitch, but given the career high-shattering innings workload Blanco is headed for, no way the Astros want him on the mound Tuesday. Just last year the Astros kept Framber Valdez from pitching in the game.

While waiting, and waiting, and waiting on Tucker's return, the Astros have also been waiting on Chas McCormick to get back to something even faintly resembling the hitter he was last year. McCormick routinely looks lost at the plate. He has four hits (all singles) in his last 32 at bats with his season OPS pitiful at .572. During the break the Astros should seriously weigh sending McCormick to AAA Sugar Land and giving Pedro Leon a try in a job share with Joey Loperfido.

*Catch our weekly Stone Cold ‘Stros podcast. Brandon Strange, Josh Jordan, and I discuss varied Astros topics. The first post for the week generally goes up Monday afternoon (second part released Tuesday) via The SportsMap HOU YouTube channel or listen to episodes in their entirety at Apple, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

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