Jim Joyce as Armando Galarraga
Is 2010 the year of the instant replay?
In baseball, it certainly is. Though limited instant replay was instituted in 2008, and fair/foul calls are now reviewable, the debate over whether to expand instant replay still rages.
From Jim Joyce, to Joe West, to Phil Cuzzi, umpires are becoming household names for all the wrong reasons.
The case for instant replay in baseball? Let's take a look.
Bad calls don't take Opening Day off.
On April 5, 2010, the Chicago Cubs and Atlanta Braves opened the season in Atlanta. In a game best remembered for Jason Heyward's debut, the Cubs lost 16-5.
But in the sixth inning, with the Cubs behind by just three runs, a runner on first base, and no one out, Marlon Byrd lined a ball into center field. Nate McClouth fielded the ball cleanly for the first out of the inning, or so it was called.
Replays later showed the ball had hit the ground before being trapped by McClouth.
One of the major arguments against expanding instant replay is the time it would take up. It would lengthen an already slow-paced game.
But as home run instant replay has shown us, the system works. This play is just one example.
On April 11th of this year, the Mets and Nationals met at Citi Field in New York, with Johan Santana on the mound against Livan Hernandez. In the top of the first inning, Santana loaded the bases and Josh Willingham crushed a 2-1 pitch to the wall in dead-center field.
The ball hit off the wall and was thrown into the infield, where Willingham was tagged out at the plate.
Replays showed that the Willingham hit was actually a home run. Because instant replay is allowed on home run calls, and because Nationals manager Jim Riggleman asked for a replay, the play was eventually reversed. The Nationals went on to win the game 5-2.
This is just one of many examples. Instant replay works.
On June 2nd, little known Tigers starting pitcher Armando Galarraga pitched a complete game, one-hit shutout against the Cleveland Indians. Officially.
One out away from a perfect game, in the bottom of the ninth inning, Galarraga induced a groundball to first baseman Miguel Cabrera. Cabrera flipped the ball to Galarraga, beating Jason Donald to the bag.
But first base umpire Jim Joyce, one of the best in the game, made the wrong call. He called Donald safe and ended the perfect game bid.
Everyone makes mistakes, and Joyce was forgiven. Still, the situation could have been prevented with instant replay in place.
On the same day Jim Joyce made his historically bad call, Dale Scott made another error in judgment in Seattle.
In the bottom of the 10th inning, with runners on first and second and two men out, Ichiro Suzuki hit a ground ball to second baseman Matt Tolbert. Tolbert flipped the ball to Hardy, beating the runner and theoretically ending the game.
The runner, Josh Wilson, was incorrectly called safe. Ryan Langerhans came around to score and the Mariners one the game.
The Mets just can't win.
On July 5th, with the scored tied 1-1 in the bottom of the fifth inning of a Mets-Reds game, the bases loaded, and no one out, Scott Rolen foul tipped an inside pitch off Mike Pelfrey. While the home plate umpire made the correct call, the foul tip, the umpires huddled and it was later ruled that Rolen had been hit by the pitch. The Mets unraveled, and ended up losing the game 8-5.
The call may not have been the reason the Mets lost the game, but it certainly didn't help.
On July 18th, the Mets and Giants faced off in the final game of a three-game series. The Mets came away winners 4-3, avoiding a sweep and fueling the instant replay fire.
In the bottom of the ninth inning, with the score tied at three, Travis Ishikawa of the Giants slid into home plate under the tag of Henry Blanco with what should have been the winning run. Home plate umpire Phil Cuzzi missed the call, Ishikawa was out, and the Mets went on to win the game 4-3 in 10 innings.
One of the most obvious cases for instant replay was made on August 23rd as the Phillies and Astros played at Citizen's Bank Park.
In the eighth inning, with no one on, Michael Bourn bunted up the first base line. Ryan Howard fielded the ball and made a diving tag on Bourn.
The first base umpire, Greg Gibson, had a bad angle. His view of the tag was obscured and Bourn was called safe. Replays clearly showed Bourn was out.
The Bourn/Howard play shows that not only could instant replay be used to overturn blown calls, it could also be used in the event that an umpire is unable to see the play and therefore cannot be sure he made the correct call.
In an incident that sparked as much controversy as just about any other blown call despite not affecting the outcome of the game, Derek Jeter intentionally deceived the home plate umpire after a ball ricocheted off his bat in a close game against the Tampa Bay Rays on September 15th.
With the score 2-1 in the seventh inning and no one on base, Derek Jeter squared around to bunt a Chad Qualls fastball. The pitch was inside and Jeter pulled back. He was unable to get out of the way, and the ball struck his bat. A foul, right?
Wrong. Jeter's immediate reaction fooled home plate umpire Lance Barksdale, who awarded Jeter first base. Replays showed conclusively that this was the wrong call.
On August 6th, the Phillies and Marlins were tied in the bottom of the 10th inning when Gaby Sanchez came up to the plate, the winning run on second base.
Sanchez lined the would-be game winning hit into left field, the ball landing fair about five feet in front of third base umpire Bob Davidson. Only Davidson called the hit foul, and the Marlins went on to lose the game.
Possibly worse than the bad call, Davidson refused to admit wrongdoing after viewing the replay. Still, this could have been prevented with instant replay.