Sunday, June 6, 2010

Perfect Blown Call

We've all heard about (and seen!) Armando Galarraga's perfect game and umpire Jim Joyce's blown call with two outs in the ninth inning that took it away. First, that sucks. But this raises, yet again, the debate over instant replay, and how it should be used.

Before I get to instant replay, let me just say that I'm glad that baseball has resorted in the last few years to umpires having a discussion with each other to correct calls just after they are made. This is a huge improvement over letting an obvious bad call go. For those who make a big issue about human error being part of baseball, umpires second-guessing themselves actually affirms the human factor of error, and adds the human factor of wanting to correct ourselves to make us better. So, I'm all for that. I'm not sure if the other umpires were in a position to correct Joyce on the field and on the spot, as they might not have seen the play well enough.

Now, I'm going to ask whether instant replay should be a factor at all in getting the call right. We already have a limited instant replay for home run calls, either whether the ball clears the fence or if it were fair or foul. This system isn't fool proof, as I personally witnessed the instant replay blunder in San Francisco (I was just yards away from the fence when the ball hit) that had the call reversed, creating a pinch-runner and eliminating a player from the game, and I wrote about it here. In my estimation, instant replay should only be used in limited circumstances, as its use can affect the way baseball is played as a game.

We all want to "get it right." But we all also recognize the human element in doing so. Instant replay is no guarantee to getting it right, as the NFL has proven. There are several ideas about how to use instant replay in baseball, with objections as to how it will affect the game. I'll have to write more about this in upcoming posts.

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