Instant replay has now been part of the game since August 28, 2008. Currently, it applies only to boundary calls, that is, whether home runs are fair or foul, whether they actually leave the field and whether or not a fan interfered with the ball. This implementation of the rule makes sense to me since these are the calls that are the furthest from where the umpire is positioned and therefore some of the most difficult calls to make.
- Missed it by that much
However, problems can arise with plays that are right in front of an umpire as Armando Galarraga found out when he was about to close out the 21st perfect game in MLB history. On a ground ball, the highly respected, now-infamous (who said that life is fair) Jim Joyce called Jason Donald (an answer to a new trivia question) safe at first base, although he was clearly out. Joyce demonstrating his class, admitted that he blew the call and apologized to Galarraga. But the point here is that an umpire, one of the best, missed a call and all replays clearly showed that Galarraga and the ball beat Donald to the bag and the final out of the perfect game should have been registered. This is a text book case where proponents of extension of the instant replay rule would have righted an egregious wrong. The question is, “is the current rule adequate or should it be extended”?
There is one side note that I must mention. The “Galarraga” call resulted in a great uproar from fans and the media for Bud Selig to “fix” the call and effectively alter the record book. Now, I am not a fan on Selig in any shape or form. In fact, I think that a lot of baseball’s current ills are the result of the eviscerating of the Commissioner’s Office. But that’s another story. However, I do need to give credit to Selig for ignoring all of the pressure and letting the call stand. He had no authority to make such a change and if he had, it would only have compounded the issue. So, kudos to Bud Selig for taking a hard line on this one, it was the right thing to do.
- source: Jeff Danzinger, NY Times
Back to the instant replay rule, the biggest concern that I have is what effect this would have on the pace of the game. This pace has already become a problem (and that will be the subject of a future post) so anything that can adversely affect an already challenged part of the game worries me.
Clearly, unlimited replays could not be permitted or each game could become a mini-series. The first thought is that certain “plays” would have to remain non-reviewable. For example, ball-and-strike calls should be excluded. But that still leaves a lot of opportunities for calls to be reviewed. Maybe the best way would be to also limit the number of plays that could be reviewed in a game.
It doesn’t seem right that it should be based on some kind of arbitrary definition of “important” calls such as only calls that occur late in the game, like the Joyce call. So, that one could have been “fixed”. In this implementation, if the call had occurred in the first inning rather than the ninth it wouldn’t be reviewable. Worst is that the “importance” of the call wouldn’t be revealed until later in the game and you obviously couldn’t go back after the fact.
There are two options that I can come up with that are worth discussing. I am sure that there are many smarter people than I that can come up with others but, for now, I’ll stick to these two. They are two distinctly different approaches: one initiated by the officials and one initiated by the managers.
Before any alternative is considered,an important footnote to consider is that it must be ensured that camera angle coverage is comparable across the different stadiums. This may or may not be the case currently, although if I were to hazard a guess, I would think not.
The “manager option”would be something similar to the approach taken in football. Each manager would be allotted a certain number of challenges for nine innings. Additional challenge(s) would be provided for extra innings. It could also have a stipulation such as some sort of auto-review by the officials “late” in the game, although, my feelings about that type of provision should be obvious per my previous example.
The main difference between the football version and the baseball version would be the consequences of a challenge that doesn’t get overturned. There are no “time-outs” to be forfeited and I can’t think of an appropriate substitution that wouldn’t further affect the integrity of the game.
The “official option” would require a “replay”official to watch the game and initiate a review when he sees something questionable. Again, there would have to be some sort of limitations on types of calls that can be reviewed if not also, the number that can take place in a game.
There might a third option that is a hybrid version that combines aspects of the two outlined. For my money, I’d leave it the way that is and accept the human element of the game. Anyone out there that might have some thoughts on these or some other options that they’d like to share?
- So, what’s YOUR call?