Is it time to expand instant replay?

Just about everyone on the planet is weighing in on the perfect game controversy that took place in Detroit on Wednesday, so I thought I’d put my two cents in as well.

A lot of you have asked if I think the Commissioner should overturn umpire Jim Joyce’s safe (and incorrect) call that ended Armando Gallaraga’s bid for a perfect game. The Commissioner has already said that he’s not going to overturn it, and I agree with him, wholeheartedly.

Whether you agree or disagree that instant replay should be expanded to include examination of close plays on the bases and at and home plate, the fact is, at this point, reviewing plays and overturning calls after the fact is only allowed with home run calls.

Making an exception this time would certainly give Gallaraga his rightful place in the history books, and it wouldn’t bother me terribly if this wrong was made right. It was a bad call, as the replays have shown and Joyce had admitted time and again. But rules are rules, and right now, there is no rule that allows umpire calls to be overturned unless it’s a home run in question.

I’m not completely siding with the Commish, however. I have long felt that instant replay should be expanded to include close plays on the bases. It absolutely infuriated me that select writers and fans shrugged off the horrendous mistakes several umpires made during the last postseason. This isn’t to pick on the umpires; quite the contrary. I’ve always felt that everyone would benefit from using the technology that we have at our fingertips in today’s age to get things right. We’re at a point now where you can add instant replay without adding unwanted time onto the games.

In today’s ballparks, there are monitors everywhere. When you’re standing in line at the concession stands, you can watch the game, and the replays, on the dozens of TVs that saturate every concourse in every corner of every ballpark. It’s unfair to the umpires that their mistakes are exposed within 15 seconds of the calls that they make. Why can’t the umpiring crew have the same luxury?

The “human element” to baseball has been overblown and over-romanticized. The integrity of the game is all that matters, and getting the calls right should be priority No. 1. We’re in the age of split-second technology, and it’s time to use it.

I felt horrible for Joyce. He’s highly-regarded as one of the game’s better umpires and it’s sad that his legacy will always be tied to this one call. There are ways to make sure this never happens again, and the time to make sure it’s doesn’t is now. Why wait?

9 Comments

While we disagree on part one (I think they need to overturn it. Rules are rules my thumb, the man pitched a perfect game, and it should go down as one, period. It’s the RIGHT thing to do, even if the rules don’t say so), we are in total agreement about expanding replay. There is NO reason why it can’t be done, and done well, and done quickly. What the heck is “the human element” anyway? There’s a human element in every other major sport too, but that hasn’t stopped them from utilizing the technology that’s available. While we certainly must be careful with how far it’s taken, there really is no VALID reason not to use it; it would not add significantly to the time of a game, it can be done easily and quickly, no umpire would be FORCED to overturn their calls so, ultimately, it’s still a human making the decision. I also hate the “it all evens out eventually” argument. Tell that to Galarraga. It’s time for people to get real. We hear all the time that getting the call right is the most important thing, but then people shy away from replay. Opposers should just come out and say it; “getting the call right IS important, but only if it doesn’t take a second longer or makes us change our old fuddy-duddy ways.” That’s all I hear when people continue to oppose replay. Is it time to expand instant replay? Guess what; it was time years ago, and if they had done it then, Galarraga wouldn’t have been robbed and Jim Joyce wouldn’t have this cloud that WILL hang over his head for the rest of his life. Bug Selig should grovel at Galarraga’s knees and beg his forgiveness that his stubbornness has cost him a hallowed place in the history books.

Hey Alyson, I almost always agree with everything you say and don’t have a dissenting opinion with regards to instant replay, but I’m slightly bothered by the “Rules are Rules” mentality with a case like this.

Baseball is, after all, an entertainment industry. There’s no direct reward for a perfect game other than adding a win, lowering your ERA, and a spot in sports almanacs (the former two being unaffected in the Gallaraga case as no runs scored and he still got the win). However, I don’t really care how many wins Armando has, nor his ERA; what I *do* care about is a tremendous effort from a whole team behind their pitcher, and to see that marred by an unfortunate call… well, it takes more of the Entertainment out of the game for me than any discussion of the “human element” behind Instant Replay ever could.

Now I know that rules are set up specifically for the purpose of ensuring a fair game, and they should be pretty rigid in order to assure the fans of fair, emotionless arbitration of disputes that may arise in the game from time to time. I suppose there’s an argument for not reversing the call on other grounds (not sure what those would be, but I’m open to listening), but to say that the rules simply tie our hands from what all parties involved believe to be the correct and fair outcome is too bureaucratic an answer for my tastes.

Or to put it another way, to throw hands in the air and say “well that’s just how the rules are!” misses the essential point that baseball is a game I used to love playing and now love watching (I was in attendance in 2005 for the Lidge-Pujols NLCS showdown) (…still breaks my heart), but my enjoyment can’t be increased when I see someone pull off one of the toughest feats in the game, only to have it thrown aside in a rare moment of the arbiter’s poor judgement.

The team’s record doesn’t change, no playoff situations are altered, the only person who would be affected other than Armando is Jason Donald, whose average would be made slightly worse for losing a hit. I don’t know his feelings on the matter but even in a worst-case scenario where he’s absolutely opposed to reversing his hit, the truth is that he didn’t earn it. He gave it his all but in the end, he couldn’t run fast enough to beat out the throw and in my book, that’s an out. It’s not his hit, it’s Armando’s Perfect Game.

Anyway, sorry for the long post but I do agree with just about every other opinion you’ve had, and you’ve even changed my tune on a few issues. Here though, I think this violates what might be called the essence of the game, and we must diverge. And I think this might be my first MLBlog post ever!

wasnt there a pitcher this season who was originally charged with a loss granted a no decision a week after the game? why would you agree to this? yes, the rulebook states that replays are allowed for unclear homeruns, but this is a history changing moment and one that will affect the entire career or the pitcher, team and city. selig didnt just let gallaraga down, he let the tigers, the entire city of detroit, and baseball fans across the nation down. this isnt any kind of on the fence baseball record like the maris 61st homerun, this was a blatant miss at the hands of the umpire. everyone in the country knows that this was indeed a perfect game, so selig should just bite the bullet and give credit where its due and let this go down in the books as a perfect game. it would be a credit to joyce and the tigers both.

This is what I don?t understand: a few weeks ago one of our Astros (can?t remember who) had a hit ruled an infield choice or an error several days after the game took place; I believe it was against the Pirates. Anyhow, how come they can overturn that and not that awful call that spoiled Galarraga?s amazing performance? I mean we?re not talking about a bad call in a ?normal? game where one team is crushing the other and the outcome of the call doesn?t make any difference on the final score; we?re talking about a perfect game!! There?re only 20 of these in a 150+ years of baseball; that?s a HUGE deal!
Now even if Selig changes his mind and overturns the call, this perfect game will leave a bitter taste in every one?s mouth. Also, I understand we?re human and we make errors, but come on! When a pitcher has a perfect game on the line and is only one out away, you don?t call a runner safe on a bang bang play! He?s out, end of the game, let the pitcher celebrate! In my opinion, that?s exactly what went thru Galaragga?s mind when he saw Joyce calls the runner safe. The look on his face said it all.

Yes it is time to expand instant replay! AND Galaragga’s game should be changed to a perfect game. Sometimes exceptions are made, Governors and Presidents pardon people who were clearly convicted of various crimes, umpires change their calls on the field, and official scorer’s rulings are changed, even after the game is done. Why? Because it’s life. To say “Rules are Rules” is hypocritical, and NO it does not mean we have to analyze every game ever played. The commisioner can make a one time exception…and then expand the instant replay as it should be.

I got the expected response from a lot of you and I’m glad the “rules are rules” assertion drew some ire. It makes me mad too, which is why the time is absolutely NOW to change those rules.

Again, I would not be terribly incensed if the Commish did indeed overturn the call and give Gallaraga the perfect game. But my point goes deeper than this. This NEVER should have happened in the first place. The postseason last year was a precursor for more chaos that was inevitably going to show up in some form. And it arrived in one of the worst possible forms — a bad call on the last play of the game that robbed a kid from a perfect game. It frustrates the heck out of me that we had to wait for the disaster to happen to start the ball rolling in finding a way to fix the system.

The short-sighted solution, of course, is to overturn the call and make it right. The long-term solution is what I’m after: expand instant replay and figure out an acceptable manner by which to execute it so that it won’t delay the games. I’ve heard some fantastic ideas just from casual conversation with colleagues at the ballpark and friends at my favorite after-hours establishments. So let’s figure out a solution. Like I mentioned in this blog, we have the technology to do it. So do it. Toss this goofy “human element” of the game that so many people are fixated on and just GET THE CALLS RIGHT. Change the rules. Roll with the times. The sooner, the better.
Thanks all!
Alyson

There are tons of great ideas. Heck, there are two or three off the top of my head to where umpires wouldn’t even have to leave the field. It’s so possible, but people can be so stubborn. To me, honestly, it’s the same thing with stadium building. The technology is here for roofed, A/C-ed stadiums that are still unique, beautiful and don’t feel like a tomb; Minute Maid is probably the best example, but Milwaukee’s park is no slouch either. So it boggles my mind that the Twins decided to build WITHOUT a roof, or any of the other teams in the Majors who have parks less than a decade old. Rainouts should be a thing of the past aside from obvious places like Fenway and Wrigley, but they’re not…and even that isn’t the same, as roofed stadiums are a huge extra cost and far more difficult to design etc. There is simply no valid argument against replay. None.

Hey Alyson – I also agree that they should better use technology to avoid egregious mistakes — as long as they can figure out a way to do it without unnecessarily slowing down the game.

But I don’t totally agree that Jim Joyce’s legacy will always be tied to just that one call. If that were the case, he’d just be universally hated by baseball fans. His legacy is also tied to the incredible humility, remorse, and professionalism he showed AFTERWARDS. He garnered a huge amount of fan sympathy. Watching Galarraga come out for the lineup exchange the next day, shaking hand with a visibly emotional Joyce, was one of those moments of incredible sportsmanship that makes baseball the best game in the world.

It just shouldn’t have needed to happen that way.

Hey Alyson,
I’m a little after the fact here, but I said it the night of the issue at hand: had the crew chief (don’t even know which one it was) felt strongly that it was a blown call, he had the power while still on the field to call a confab and discuss, and possibly overturn the call on the spot. Crew chief has that power, if I remember my rulebook correctly. It would obviously have been unusual, but I think it speaks to the doubt in the other umpires’ minds that the crew didn’t get together, even though they could have. Even with hindsight and foreknowledge that I was watching a blown call, it wasn’t really obvious until the slow-down from a few different angles. Hence no consensus among the umpire crew. I suppose Leyland could have lodged a protest to try to keep the issue viably alive once the final out was played (again, it would have used an existing venue to try to get justice where it should have been), but he didn’t (and yes, I know that protesting isn’t typically even thinkable for a judgment call, but this one may have broken that barrier, too), so once it was over, that’s how it goes in the books. And I agree with the others here who count Joyce’s and Galarraga’s class, grace, and humanity in dealing with the situation as possibly more influential and important than the record book. I for one will refuse to let Jim Joyce pay for food or beverage should our paths cross, and I’m sure I’m not the only one. And yes, expanding replay made sense before this, this just drives it home even more. Peace from the Great NorthWet.

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