Major League Baseball can't deny it — the game needs to expand its instant-replay system.
Last postseason, by itself, has proven that.
For instance, the Twins' Joe Mauer hit a blooper down the left-field line in Game Two of Minnesota's series against New York. The ball landed a good half foot inside the line, but, somehow, the foul-line umpire called it foul.
The call might have cost the Twins the game and a chance to make that series interesting.
And there's no excuse to miss calls like the one in Game Four of the Yankees-Angels ALCS series, when Mike Napoli clearly tagged out two Yankees by third base who weren't touching the bag. Innocently but very incorrectly, respected umpire Tim McClelland ruled that Robinson Cano had his foot on third base.
The first replay showed what I had thought when I saw the play live—Cano's foot was a good six inches from touching the rubber.
That could have been changed in a matter of a minute.
Nice and quick.
Those only illustrated the need for the expansion of instant replay.
During the past two weeks of the current season, there has been a plethora of badly missed calls. If you've watched the games with one eye, you know what I'm referring to.
All the umpires have been able to do is apologize. They can't dispute the calls, because, um, their mistakes have been obvious. Really, really, really obvious.
Now we have the Detroit Tiger's Armando Galarraga being robbed of baseball immortality.
In case you missed it, the Motown pitcher was starting in place of the recently deposed Dontrelle Willis and tossed an absolute gem of a game. A marvel of efficiency the righty only struck out three batters, but also needed just 88 pitches to complete his masterpiece.
Then, inexplicably, as the Tiger's clearly recorded the final out veteran umpire Jim Joyce blew the call. Just flat out blew it. Every replay angle on earth showed the Indians Jason Donald was out by a couple of steps, but Joyce didn't see it that way.
“It was the biggest call of my career, and I kicked the (stuff) out of it,” Joyce said, looking and sounding distraught as he paced in the umpires’ locker room.
“I just cost that kid a perfect game,” Joyce said after seeking out the young pitcher to apologize personally. "I thought he beat the throw. I was convinced he beat the throw, until I saw the replay."
“I don’t blame them a bit or anything that was said. I would’ve said it myself if I had been Galarraga. I would’ve been the first person in my face, and he never said a word to me.”
Joyce will also undoubtedly get plenty of criticism over why he was ruling such a close play safe considering the circumstances. Yes, a tie does go to the runner...except when there is a perfect game on the line (thanks to some appendage to that rascally book of "unwritten rules" we hear about now and then.)
Joyce is only human and you can bet that this call will spur another heated debate over expanded instant replay in baseball that might actually go somewhere. And it should.
We now have a true instance of a single bad umpiring decision irrevocably changing the course of baseball history. One that could have been easily corrected by a review, even if the moment had already been spoiled. This is far from over.
As well it shouldn't be, but not for the reason most think.
Galarraga was cooler than you or I might have been, going as far as to utter the most ironic of words in telling Joyce "Nobody's perfect".
I hope that isn't lost in all of this because in today's day & age of "me first" athletes he should really be commended for that fact.
The mere fact that baseball refused to take greater action over replay after last year's gaffes clearly had a significant impact on it's post-season games (therefore the season's outcome), yet will undoubtedly do so now because of what amounts to a blown personal achievement that has no impact beyond the record book is not lost on me.
If change comes, make no mistake it will come for entirely the wrong reason.
We most certainly need to have an expansion of instant replay in the sport I love so much. Not because of some lost personal accolade, but rather so that we make sure the right team wins. But hell, I'll take it anyway I can get it.
For all the baseball purists out there, I agree with you that MLB shouldn't let managers be involved in the reviewing process.
Rather, the ump in the box should have all the authority to overturn, not "review," any call that appears clearly incorrect.
In other words, if they see a replay and know right away that the call on the field wasn't right, then overturn it.
If two replays don't show conclusive evidence, play on. And no, balls and strikes should never be reviewed regardless of how many pitches are called wrong—that's part of the game and always should be.
The fix is simple.
As many of the baseball sages have suggested, put an umpire in the press box with a TV. When he sees a call such as the Mauer one that's transparently wrong, he'll signal down to the field umpires in some fashion (helloooo, I can launch the space shuttle from my iPhone, they can figure something out).
The call is reversed. Everyone is happy. (Well, maybe not the team that was the beneficiary of the bad call. But they won't feel so guilty about getting a break. Scratch that—they probably wouldn't feel guilty in the first place, but you get my drift.)
The point is, this is a simply fix. This isn't football, when some fumble-or-no-fumble reviews are so close, they take five minutes, 43 seconds (and seven beer commercials) to review.
In the end, baseball can do what is absolutely right by the game, something it failed so miserably at during the Steroid Era. That would be a huge step in repairing the damage done to America's past-time in recent years.
(P.S. It took only seconds for Joyce's Wikipedia page to be defaced. The Internet abides!)
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