The Case for Instant Replay in Major League Baseball

Ryan FliederContributor IJune 3, 2010

NEW YORK - AUGUST 08:  Manager Terry Francona of the Boston Red Sox argues with home plate umpire Jim Joyce during the game on August 8, 2009 at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx borough of New York City.  (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

On June 2, 2010, Armando Galarraga made MLB history, throwing the 21st perfect game in MLB history, and made the 2010 season the first season ever to see three perfect games.

Unfortunately, umpire Jim Joyce blew the call.

I have no strong ties to the Tigers—I like a lot of the Tigers players, but I wouldn't say I'm a fan—and when I watched this game end, I felt sick. I was so sorry for Mr. Galarraga because he absolutely deserved the perfect game and had it taken away from him.

At first, I was angry with Joyce for making the mistake, but I soon realized that it's not his fault. As we've heard over and over: we are all human; we all make mistakes.

But more and more I realized I was still angry; not at Joyce because it is true we are human and make mistakes, but I was angry because I felt so impotent that there was nothing we could do about it.

Now, I'm reading that Bud Selig has the power to overturn calls at what feels like his whim. I'm sure there's some process and he has to justify it, and I'm truthfully praying that Galarraga will be finally given the perfect game he earned. But still, I can't help but ask myself: why do we have to wait for this insanity to rectify a mistake that could have been fixed in 30 seconds inside a replay booth?

A couple years ago, Major League Baseball decided that home runs had to be reviewable. Too many games were being decided on missed calls from an umpire judging a ball flying 60 miles per hour around a pole less than two feet wide from a hundred yards away. Again, we're all human, we all make mistakes, but we have the power to see this again in case we do make a mistake.

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The baseball purists were up in arms, complaining that this would absolutely ruin baseball. What's happened in the last two years is that players are proud to know that they're rewarded for what they actually do, not whether or not they get the call.

In football, before instant replay was implemented, it was common for bad calls to decide games. It wasn't until 1998 when Vinnie Testaverde was tackled several feet short of the goal line but awarded a game-winning touchdown, and costing the Seahawks a playoff berth, that people truly believed in the value of instant replay.

Back then everyone was up in arms, saying that instant replay would "ruin the purity of the game" or "slow all games to a crawl.” You could argue that in recent years, instant replay in football has gotten ambiguous and out of control. Few, however, would argue that football is worse off with the addition of the instant replay.

On top of that, baseball now has a model for implementing instant replay. Football's instant replay is plagued with bizarre rules of what can and can't be reviewed (I personally HATE that you can review 12 men on the field, generally as a "gotcha" when that substitution player has his left pinky-toe still on the field when the play starts).

However, when baseball implemented instant replay for home runs, they clearly stated that home runs—and ONLY home runs—could be reviewed. They also implemented a professional umpire whose only job was to watch for when a call was questionable, to keep the review out of the hands of emotional and biased coaches throwing red flags.

I understand that baseball purists and Chicken Littles everywhere will be crying about how a change and increase in the scope of instant replay would ruin baseball. Ignore them. We all know that instant replay is a great thing because it's a safety net in case umpires make a mistake. Instant replay prevents umpires who are asked to constantly watch so much from making a mistake when they usually don't have the best viewpoint anyway.

I'm not claiming we should instantly implement an instant replay in baseball for balls and strikes, every base-running decision, and every foul call. From football, we understand that not every play needs to be reviewable.

What I am suggesting is that for big situations, where either a run scores or a scoring opportunity is prevented by a bad call, or in no-hitter and perfect game type situations an umpire blows a call on a base runner, we put to use the amazing new technologies we have.

If we did that, Jim Joyce wouldn't be so patronized by everyone saying, "aww shucks, well...everybody's human.”

If we did that, we wouldn't be so angry, feeling impotent and helpless, knowing that we easily could have fixed this on the spot.

If we did that, Armando Galarraga would have the perfect game that he rightfully earned.