There has been much chatter in Philadelphia over the last few days regarding first base umpire Jim Joyce’s decision not to turn to instant replay for a near-home run by pinch hitter Greg Dobbs during Friday night’s Phillies-Red Sox game.
The towering fly ball was ruled foul, even though it was difficult to tell after several replays if it went directly over the right field foul pole when it left the playing field. Regardless of whether or not the correct call was made, Joyce was utterly wrong in his refusal to use instant replay.
If there was ever a textbook situation of when to use instant replay, it was on Friday night. This was not the fourth inning of a September game between two last place teams, it was the bottom of the eleventh between the best team in the American League and the World Series champions.
The entire outcome of the game hinged on the call. For Joyce and the rest of the umpiring crew to not use the technology at their disposal is nothing short of an embarrassment.
Joyce was quoted afterwards as saying, “I was very confident the ball was foul. I’ll be very honest with you. I thought about it after the call. But I was very confident that ball was foul”.
Joyce should dust off his thesaurus if he thinks he can still call himself confident, even when he admits he had second thoughts. This whole event is simply indicative of someone putting their personal pride above the game itself.
I can see the staunch traditionalists and umpire apologists out there applauding Joyce and the crew’s decision to stick with the call on the field. However, whether we like it or not, instant replay is now part of the rules of the game.
MLB umpires generally do a fine job. They are not commended enough for the large majority of calls they make correctly, yet are often under great scrutiny for the calls they do miss.
However, there was no excuse for the stubbornness that was shown on Friday night or might be shown at any point in the future when the old guard refuses to accept the new rules and technology that are now part of the game.
If instant replay were used on Friday night and found to be inconclusive, then the call on the field should stand. It happens in the NFL all the time. It would have only taken a minute and would have avoided the large backlash against Joyce’s crew.
I don’t believe we should advocate any kind of challenge system, but if the umpires don’t start wising up and cut down on the arrogance, we might have to. Instant replay is in the rulebook, Jim Joyce and company need to use it.