Off the Kuff Rotating Header Image

So how about that instant replay?

I presume you’ve heard about the perfect game that wasn’t, thanks to the blown call by the umpire with two outs in the ninth inning. If not, see here, here, and here for the details. All I have to say about this is something I’ve said before, which is that I do not understand the resistance to making a best effort to get as many calls right as possible, which in this day and age means an appropriate use of available technology. So I’m going to let Ken Funck say it for me this time:

Add an umpire to the crew, put him in a video booth, and have him buzz the crew chief on the field when he sees something was missed. Since that extra umpire might have the best view of a given play, let him correct any egregious mistakes he sees. There’s no clock in baseball, and umpires already manage the timing of the game by, say, sweeping the plate clean while a catcher gets his bearings after taking a foul ball off his grill. No need for challenges or formal booth reviews—on a bang-bang play, just slow the action down for another few seconds to see if the replay umpire needs to fix an obvious mistake. If not, the game moves on. Giving this power to an umpire in the booth doesn’t undermine the authority of umpires, it expands it, and it protects them from the sort of unfair criticism that [umpire Jim] Joyce is likely to catch in the coming days. It would also add so little time to the game as to be negligible, and there are other, better avenues of speeding up games (e.g., limiting pitcher/catcher conferences or the number of times batters can step out of the box) that aren’t an accomplice to situations such as Wednesday night’s missed call.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my work life, it’s this: humans will sometimes make errors, so you need to set up processes to catch them before they lead to tragic consequences. Joyce certainly feels terrible today, but really, he shouldn’t. He did the best he could in the situation he was placed, and made a mistake that any other umpire, or indeed any other fan, could just as easily have made. The true error wasn’t made by Joyce, but by those whose blind adherence to empty slogans like “tradition” and “authority” and “the human element” put him in a position to fail so publicly. I hope they, too, had difficulty sleeping last night.

There was a time when I was willing to take it slow on instant replay in baseball, but that time has passed. We’ve seen way too many examples of blown calls that could and should have been easily corrected if the right tools had been available. It’s time to use those tools and get the job done better.

Having said all this, by the way, I don’t want to see Commissioner Bud Selig overrule the umpire, even if he has the power to do so. The point is to get the call right at the time. MLB can do a better job of that if it chooses to do so.

Related Posts:

Comments are closed.