Written by: Andrew Wittry
It seems that on almost a daily basis there are blown calls in Major League Baseball that leave fans wondering why there isn’t a system in place to correct the missed or blown calls. The NFL has implemented instant replay, coach’s challenges, and booth reviews. In the NBA, the officials can watch game film over when assessing foul calls in order to make the right decision. Clearly the technology is readily available but the league has not put it into effect. It is certainly understandable that MLB officials are skeptical of the impact instant replay would have on the game because they do not want to make umpires obsolete. With modern technology, it would be possible for technology to decide balls and strikes but this would be detrimental to America’s game.
On Monday in the Detroit Tigers vs. Boston Red Sox game, one of these game-changing blown calls occurred in the second inning with the score tied at one. Tigers pitcher Doug Fister threw a pitch past the swinging bat of Mike Aviles. Aviles claimed that it was a foul tip even though the home plate umpire called it strike three. The home umpire asked the first base umpire for his opinion and the call was changed to a foul tip. Aviles went on to get an RBI single, followed by two more Boston Red Sox runs. Aviles’ strikeout would have ended the inning but instead propelled the BoSox to a 7-4 victory. Tigers manager Jim Leyland ended up getting tossed for arguing the call later the game and he had a right to be mad. Aviles’ at-bat should have ended and the third inning would have started with a 1-1 tie, not a 4-1 deficit for Detroit. This is just one of the numerous examples of blown calls that drastically changed the flow of the game. The home plate umpire made the correct call and the first base umpire overruled him and made the wrong call. If an instant replay system were installed into the MLB, easy calls such as this one would be ruled correctly and teams would not be cheated of runs and outs by umpires.
Another recent blown call of note was even more egregious. First basemen have a long history of pulling their foot off the bag to catch a ball thrown by one of the infielders in order to get the call at first. Colorado Rockies first baseman Todd Helton was at least two feet off the bag, yet the umpire, Tim Welke, still called Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Jerry Hairston out. And just think, if instant replay would have been implemented in Major League Baseball two years ago, Armando Galarraga would not have been robbed of his perfect game. Of course there would have to be limits to how much instant replay would be used in professional baseball but there is no reason why the MLB should not expand it beyond its current role of judging whether potential homeruns made it over the outfield wall or not. A good place to start for its first year would be for safe/out calls on the basepaths, whether balls were caught on the fly or trapped by fielders, check swings, and strike three calls. Over time, depending on how the initial use of instant replay went, the MLB could expand the power of replay. Similar to the NFL, managers could have one or two opportunities each game to challenge certain rulings on the field. Major League Baseball could add an additional umpire for each game to watch via television in one of the clubhouses or the league could create new positions so that there are people who watch every game at MLB headquarters, make their rulings, and communicate them to the stadium to the umpires by phone call or Internet. I’ll end with some food for thought from the BusinessInsider.com sports page, written by Cork Gaines:
"During a spot on the 'Mike and Mike in the Morning' radio show, Jayson Stark of ESPN.com discussed how Major League Baseball plans to expand instant replay. And the level of expansion just might surprise you. Stark revealed that expanded instant replay is coming when he was asked about the horrible call that may have cost the Detroit Tigers a chance to beat the Boston Red Sox yesterday."
Here are the details of what MLB is planning according to Stark (via ESPN Radio): A group of umpires will watch games from a central location. On plays that are “clearly wrong” the group would then signal the umpires at the game and let them know there is an obvious call that needs to be changed MLB hopes to implement an introductory version of the system in 2013. The initial system would only review home runs, whether a ball is fair or foul, and whether or not a player caught a ball The system would then be expanded “after a year or so” once the system is optimized. At that point, the system would be expanded “to all sorts of calls.” However, Stark says exactly what would be included would have to be negotiated.
There are two important points here. First is the use of umpires at the central location. This is clearly a move to placate the umpires’ union, who would likely be against expanding replay. By using umpires, MLB will be increasing the number of umpiring jobs, something the union would have a hard time turning down. Also, the use of a central location will keep the game from being slowed down too much. One person watching a monitor in New York will work much faster than four umpires going into the clubhouse to review a play on a monitor. But the most important point is when Stark concluded by saying this system “is being discussed, and is going to happen.”
Clearly the MLB is taking steps in the right direction but they still need to work out many of the specific details for next season. Hopefully by this time next year, the league has worked out the kinks in the new instant replay system and fans won’t have to watch any more horrendous calls that make them want to send their remote into the TV.
Written by: Andrew Wittry
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On the same day Ian Desmond withdrew from the 2012 NL All-Star team with an oblique strain, Bryce Harper has been selected by Tony LaRussa as the replacement for Giancarlo Stanton, who will have knee surgery. Youngest position player in an All-Star Game ever.
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