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The NFL has it. The NBA has it. Hell, even the NHL, that red-headed step brother of a professional sports league has it. What is “it,” exactly? Expanded instant replay. After a certain gaffe on Wednesday night involving a near-perfect game, it’s become clearer than ever that Major League Baseball needs to finally step into the 21st century.
The gaffe I speak of is, of course, Jim Joyce’s inexcusable blown call in the 9th inning of Wednesday night’s Tigers-Indians game, which robbed Detroit starting pitcher Armando Galarraga of a perfect game. Galarraga was perfect through 8.2 innings, and appeared to have retired Jason Donald on a bang-bang play at first before Joyce inexplicably ruled Donald safe, nullifying Galarraga’s pursuit of perfection and forcing him to settle for a one-hit shutout. I could sit here all day and pile on Joyce, but I won’t. He’s only human, and umpires make mistakes. The problem doesn’t lie with him. It lies with his employers’ complete inability to adapt to the times.
Yes, the MLB has already implemented its own form of instant replay. It’s been in place since August, 2008. Of course, it’s the most bare-boned system of its kind, as it’s only allowed to review home run balls. Every other major sport in this country utilizes instant replay in a number of capacities, from the NHL reviewing all questionable goals to the NFL’s challenge system, which virtually guarantees the calls on the field are eventually correct. Simply reviewing home run balls isn’t going to cut it, and baseball needs to realize this.
Purists will say expanded instant replay ruins “the integrity of the game,” or that it “removes the human element.” Really? That’s what we’re worried about here? I don’t see those qualms being brought up in the other major sports, where they always get the calls right thanks to technology. The same technology that MLB already has in place, but refuses to put to good use. It’s mind blowing.
The worst, or best thing about this whole ordeal, depending on your perspective, is how easy the fix would be. Simply utilize the camera technology you’re already using in the ballparks to get the calls right. Worried about the games getting too long due to an influx of reviewed calls? Implement a challenge system similar to the one the NFL uses. I don’t see people complaining that they’re missing the start of 60 Minutes on Sunday nights due to longer games. I mean come on, that Tigers-Indians game took 1 hour and 44 minutes from the first pitch to the final out. I think the purists could have spared another two minutes to make sure the right call was made.
Does Wednesday night’s absurdity change anything in the eyes of Major League Baseball? It’s hard to say right now. Chances are, Bud Selig will come out with a statement along the lines of “Jim Joyce has been an excellent umpire in this league for many years, and we stand by him,” and they’ll try to bury this. Still, one can hope that they’ll realize expanded instant replay is beneficial to all parties involved, and finally get with the program.