Time for Baseball to Accept Review of Umpires’ Decisions

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Category: Sports & Law
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No one who knows me will be surprised that my first blog post will be about baseball.

Last night’s call by Jim Joyce denying Armando Galarraga a perfect game is yet the most recent example of the need for baseball to adapt to the modern era and accept the use of technology in assisting umpires who make tough, close calls. In this case, there is no disputing that Joyce made a horrible call. He admits he blew it. The replay is clear.

Now it is time for the Commissioner to demonstrate leadership and move baseball forward. 

Holding fast to past practice is not the same as holding on to tradition. I hope that Commissioner Selig is able to distinguish between the two. Baseball tradition was honored by the way that Armando Galarraga has accepted the decision of the umpire and the rules under which the game is played. He is a class act. Baseball tradition was honored by the way that Jim Joyce accepted that he is human and acknowledged his mistake. Baseball is bigger than the egos of either one.

Now it is time for the Commissioner to get over his misconceived notions of clinging to the past and accept that baseball should be able to adjust to the times and use technology to review calls like the one last night at first base. No fan would object to the delay and no player or umpire would object to the review. Indeed, in a case like last night the focus would be on getting it right.

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6 Responses to “Time for Baseball to Accept Review of Umpires’ Decisions”

  1. Gordon Hylton Says:

    What you suggest seems to make sense, but where would the right to demand a replay stop? Every film clip that I have seen of Don Larson’s perfect game in the 1956 World Series reveals that the final strike to Indians hitter Dale Mitchell was high and outside. Should Mitchell have been entitled to a replay?

    My high school baseball coach Cedric Frazier used to remind us that “bad calls are part of the game.” Only later did I realize that he wasn’t so much talking about baseball as he was sharing with us a lesson about life generally.

  2. Matt Mitten Says:

    As a lifelong Tigers fan, I would have loved to see Comissioner Selig choose to overturn the umpire’s erroneous call and award Armando Galarraga a perfect game. (As a side note, Jim Joyce grew up a Tigers fan and is the cousin of one of my Toledo friends.) However, human error is part of the game (and life, as Professor Hylton observes), and Commissioner Selig properly exercised his “best interests of the game” authority, which gives him broad discretion, by refusing to do so. Retroactively overturning one bad call (even one that the umpire admitted was wrong and denies the player a once in a lifetime achievement) while allowing numerous past umpire errors to stand would not be fair and consistent administration of the game of baseball. Prospectively changing the scope of technological and/or league review of umpire calls is an entirely different matter, which I trust Commissioner Selig and MLB will carefully consider.

  3. Scott Brunner Says:

    My hope is that this instance does nothing to change how instant replay is used in baseball. If Selig decided to alter this call it would open the flood-gates. If the MLB altered Joyce’s call here, does that not set a precedent that every close call at first base could be challenged? There are a handful of close calls at first base every game, most correct, but a few not. And then if every close call at first can be challenged, why not every stolen base? Umpires blow stolen base calls every day.

    I think the way that Galarraga and Joyce carried themselves the day after says a lot about why we should not change this call, or incorporate more instant replay into baseball. Both understand that blown calls are part of the game, and sports are not meant to be perfect. To me, the true competitiveness of sports comes out of how athletes tackle adversity. If we perfect every situation in baseball, we will never be able to appreciate how a pitcher overcomes a bad call at first, how a true competitor witnesses one of the worst calls in all of baseball go against him and his name in the history books…and gets the very next guy to ground out (as Galarraga did).

    Lastly, I worry about what more instant replay will do to the umpire in general. Will umpires relax more because they know they can always check with the “booth” whether the runner was safe at first?

    I appreciate what technology can do to perfect the game of baseball. But I don’t think perfecting calls in baseball will move the game forward. I think it might move the game backwards, because in the big picture I think the game is about competition and facing adversity, not perfection and fairness.

  4. Martin Tanz Says:

    In response to Prof. Hylton’s point about bad calls being part of the game, I agree, but also think that as technology improves, it should be incorporated into the game. They could take a chapter from football, allowing each manager to challenge, say, two calls per game, except for called balls and strikes. Additionally, allow for official review of close calls late in the game, say in the 8th or 9th innings so as not to allow a bad call to decide the outcome of a game.

  5. Nick Wood Says:

    There is a clear distinction between a “judgement” call (e.g. balls and strikes) and a “non-judgement” call (e.g. first base force-outs).

    Although there wil always be “bad” calls in baseball, tradition also demands the application of a standard of fundamental fairness.

    It is per se unfair for any player/team to be penalized by a “bad” call when technology, properly applied, can overcome the injustice.

    The NFL got it right……….now it’s MLB’s turn.

  6. Gordon Hylton Says:

    I just want to note for the record that I do know that the Yankees played the Brooklyn Dodgers in the 1956 World Series, and not the Cleveland Indians, as I suggested.

    Dale Mitchell, the final batter to face Larson in his perfect game, played for the Indians from his major league debut in 1946 until July 29, 1956 when he was sold to the Dodgers. His strikeout to end game 5 was his next to last at bat in the major leagues and he never appeared in a major league games after the 1956 Series.

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