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Thursday, June 03, 2010
Armando Galaragga and the Need for Instant Replay in Baseball

On Wednesday night, with just one out to go in the game, Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga was wrongly denied a perfect game on a very bad call by umpire Jim Joyce. Here's Tom Verducci's account for
Joyce happened to be working first base Wednesday night in Detroit for the game between the Tigers and the Indians when infamy did not just tap him on the shoulder, it slapped him upside the head. Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga had just thrown the 21st perfect game in baseball history, and a ridiculous third perfecto inside of four weeks, when first baseman Miguel Cabrera threw to him covering first base on a grounder by Jason Donald for the 27th out. Cabrera celebrated. Only one thing was missing.

Jim Joyce called Donald safe.

There is no polite way to say this: Joyce blew the call. Galarraga caught the ball in plenty of time, even if it wedged precariously in the webbing of his glove, and scraped the base, even if inelegantly, with his foot. Immortal fame was his.

Jim Joyce took it away. He called Donald safe. No sign that Galarraga juggled the ball. No sign that he missed the base. Just safe. Pure and simple safe.

Umpires miss calls. It happens. Nobody feels worse when an umpire misses a call than the umpire himself. They are proud men who strive for a 100 percent success rate and are bound to be disappointed. Upon seeing a replay, Joyce was crushed.

"I just cost that kid a perfect game," the umpired admitted afterward. "I thought he beat the throw. I was convinced he beat the throw, until I saw the replay."

Give credit to Joyce for admitting that he made a bad call and taking responsibility. He also apologized personally to Galarraga.

It's encouraging when someone admits a mistake and owns up to it, but why should the mistake even stand? Why isn't there instant replay for extremely close calls, especially when fans get to watch those replays, in some cases over-and-over again? And especially when the person who made the mistake clearly would have corrected it had he been able?

Some might argue that instant replay would extend the time of already-too-long games. That is probably true, but if managers were limited to two or three replay challenges per game, presumably the impact on the time would not be too significant. Also, isn't accuracy and the fairness it promotes more important than whether games are five minutes longer?

Others place value in the tradition -- umpires haven't been able to use instant replay for calls and we should honor that tradition. First off, that isn't true, as in 2008, MLB umpires allowed for umpires to use instant replay to review whether fly balls are foul or home runs. But more important, who cares about a tradition if contemporary technology offers a better and fairer system? After-all, if instant replay technology had been around when baseball was created and developed, isn't there a good chance that it would have been adopted?

Opponents to instant replay have other reasons, and for a great defense of their position, check out Howard's 2007 piece titled "Against Instant Replay". Maybe he'll change his mind after watching the video above, though.

So do you support MLB adopting instant replay? If so, how would it work?


...and the same night that Galaragga was robbed, the Flyers beat Chicago in a Stanley Cup game after instant replay was used earlier in the night to verify that a goal indeed was scored by Philly when it wasn't called by the refs as such....

Anonymous Anonymous -- 6/03/2010 6:50 AM  

Maybe the commissioner should just exercise his authority under the best interests clause and officially award him a perfect game in the record books. If a player's off-field misconduct in a bar gives a league commissioner authority to act, most certainly this does!

The counter-argument is that it would set a bad precedent for the commissioner to interfere with an umpire's call, but I think this is a unique situation that warrants it. This doesn't involve a question about whether the statistician was correct in ruling something a base hit instead of an error or whether the umpire was correct in calling a pitch a ball instead of a strike. It also wouldn't impact at all which team won the game. Perhaps more to the point, it wouldn't create any controversy; nobody would object to the commissioner making such a decision, not even the opposing team or even the umpire. I would bet that Donald (the player who hit the ground ball that was ruled a hit) wouldn't even object!

Blogger Rick Karcher -- 6/03/2010 8:20 AM  

Mike: Nope, I have not changed my mind (but I knew someone would bring this up); I just have not had a chance to sit down to write out why. I am not sure I am being old-fashioned as much as just thinking that the human component--from everyone--is part of the game.

Rick: I would object. I think the commissioner coming down to overrule specific on-field decision that do not involve rule interpretation (e.g., the Pine Tar Game) is a generally bad idea, much as Congress does not get to reopen final decisions that it believes were "wrong." Plus, I am not sure about your distinction between this and a ball/strike call. Suppose that, in the same situation, the umpire had blown the call on what have been strike 3 of the 27th out, then the player got a hit on the next pitch; it seems to me if commissioner involvement is proper in one, it is proper in the other. Alternatively, is the issue only that it happened on out # 27? Suppose that this exact play/blown call happened on the first batter, who then was picked off first, then Galaragga retired the next 26. Should the commissioner step in? Why is that different?

Blogger Howard Wasserman -- 6/03/2010 10:50 AM  


Since when does league commissioner action only pertain to rules interpretations? And the team owners have granted the commissioner, not Congress, authority to do certain things (so I don't see how the Congress reference is applicable).

The commissioner's authority under the best interest clause is and always has been entirely subjective based upon what the commissioner personally believes to be in the game's best interest. We can debate whether off-field misconduct affects the integrity of the game, but nevertheless the commissioner has broad discretionary authority to act (absent a provision to the contrary within the league constitution and bylaws or CBA). So if the only objection to the commissioner doing something in this instance is based upon the slippery slope argument or the "what if" scenarios (which is your objection), that applies to most decisions of the commissioner when acting in the game's best interest.

Lastly, I don't know how to explain the distinction between this and a called ball/strike, except to say that my kid (who tends to be partial towards pitchers) and I (who tend to be partial towards hitters) debate called balls/strikes every inning, and there was nothing for us to debate on this one.

Blogger Rick Karcher -- 6/03/2010 11:36 AM  

it was such a nice moves on video cool.

Anonymous romel -- 6/06/2010 2:32 AM  

Basically umpire's decision is depend on the game.

Anonymous Washington Dui Attorney -- 6/10/2010 8:44 AM  

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