How MLB Can Do Instant Replay the Right Way
The use of instant replay in baseball is a subject that creates mixed feelings among lovers of the game.
Purists want to leave the game the way it is. Let baseball police itself.
Others think all plays should be made eligible for replay with the Utopian goal of “getting them all right.”
The truth and proper method lies somewhere between the two polarized sides of this argument.
Baseball has been “policing itself” and many calls have been blown in recent years. Calls that have changed or ended perfect games, no-hitters, triple plays, World Series outcomes and many other monumental moments.
On the other hand, they will never get everything right.
This is not about bashing umpires, but about giving umpires the tools they need to do their job for the best of the game.
Following is a brief outline for how to make instant replay work correctly and still protect the best interests of the game as a whole.
Give the Umpires a Control Room
First, a room will need to be allocated for umpire use either in every stadium or at a central location. One at each stadium is the most functional, despite being more expensive.
In that room, one umpire will sit through the duration of the game with access to every single camera angle within the stadium.
The home plate umpire will then have the ability to contact him as needed throughout a game when there's a call that needs to be reviewed.
Adjust the Current Crew
Second, the current umpire staffs will need to either be increased to five, or one of the four will need to be moved to the “hub.” Increasing the size would make the most sense, but with expanded use of replay the fourth umpire could be used.
Request a Review
Third, The home plate umpire will require an in-ear device that allows him to communicate with the umpire working in the hub. If there is a question, then he could immediately contact the hub for a review and in seconds have his answer without slowing the play of the game.
Ideally, all of this could be done before a manager makes his way on the field to throw a base or scream the standard obscenities.
If there are doubts about a play, having a manager request a review or another umpire call attention when he sees a different view are the only ways the review should be allowed.
In an effort to curb abuse where managers might use it to buy time for a reliever to have another warm-up pitch, managers should be limited to one use per game. An umpire would be allowed to call for the use of additional replays if he deems it necessary, but managerial requests must be limited.
When Can It Be Used
Fourth, the expansion cannot include balls and strikes. It should be opened to use for defensive plays at the plate, other defensive questions, fair or foul calls, home runs (where it is currently used) and to fix blatant mistakes that occur on occasion within games.
This is not a fix-all to the problems umpires, managers and players have faced in recent years, but it is the most efficient way to both protect the integrity of the game and ensure that the right calls are made.
The job of an umpire is extremely difficult. This is not about undermining umpires, but giving them the tools they need to do their job as accurately as possible.
In the following slides, check out some blown calls from the past.
May 2, 2012: Rockies vs. Dodgers
Dodgers manager Don Mattingly argues with umpire Tim Welke on one of the worst blown calls ever.
When the Colorado Rockies were facing the Los Angeles Dodgers in May, Welke called Jerry Hairston out at first base when first baseman Todd Helton was clearly two feet away from the bag when making the catch. This is a prime example of what instant replay should correct.
October 22, 2011 Cardinals vs. Texas Rangers
In Game 3 of the 2011 World Series, first-base umpire Ron Kulpa blew a call that could have been a big momentum shift for the Texas Rangers.
As Matt Holliday of the St. Louis Cardinals headed for first, shortstop Elvis Andrus' throw was a bit wide, pulling Mike Napoli off of the bag. As a result, Kulpa called Holliday safe, but in replays Napoli clearly tagged Holliday before his foot reached the bag.
That play started a four-run rally for the Cardinals, taking them up 2-1 in the series before eventually going home to win it all.
June 2, 2010 Cleveland Indians vs. Detroit Tigers
This call by Jim Joyce could go down as one of the most painful in history.
With two outs in the ninth inning, Detroit Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga was one out away from a perfect game. It would have been the 21st in history. When Jason Donald of the Cleveland Indians hit a roller to first base, Galarraga covered and had him out by half of a stride.
Even Donald looked puzzled after the call. The Tigers were already leaping into the air when Joyce made the call that he will be most remembered for botching a young pitcher's likely only opportunity at a perfect game.
MLB Commissioner Bud Selig refused to reverse the call. As you can see in the above video, Joyce was clearly disappointed in himself for the call and personally apologized to Galarraga.
Don Denkinger and the 1985 World Series
In 1985, Don Denkinger ensconced his place in MLB history when he blew a call at first base that may have changed the momentum for the remainder of the World Series.
The call is virtually identical to the incident with Kulpa and Galarraga. Jack Clark of the Cardinals threw a ball to Todd Worrell,who was covering first base on the play in the bottom of the ninth inning.
The runner, Jorge Orta, was out by a mile. Denkinger called him safe. The Royals won that night and slaughtered the Cardinals the following night in Game 7 to win the World Series.
Denkinger has, on multiple occasions since, joined the 1985 Cardinals team for reunions and has even signed at card shows with them. The fan base was not as quick to forgive as the players.