The Call


By now, everyone is well aware of what went down last night. Armando Galarraga was one out away from a perfect game, and made the play he needed to make to get out #27 and put his name in the history books (along with the 2010 season), and first base umpire Jim Joyce, apparently paying attention to something somewhere that was more important than the potential perfect game he was an integral part of, blew the call that ended the perfect game, ended the no-hitter, and outraged fans of every baseball team everywhere.

Watching the game at home, I was standing up in front of my TV, excited to see a perfect game as it happened for the first time in my life. My girlfriend, watching with me, was on the edge of her seat. The ball was hit and Galarraga had to run to cover first. We leaned forward. He caught the ball. He tagged the base. He clearly beat the runner, and we yelled, “Yea… OHHHH!” I literally fell to my knees in front of the TV. Galarraga, for his part, handled it extraordinarily well, and his smile directed at Joyce was perfect: He clearly knew the call was blown, he clearly knew his bid for history was gone, and he clearly knew arguing wouldn’t have changed any of it. He took back the ball, he went back to the mound, and he recorded the final out on the 28th batter he saw. Miguel Cabrera kept talking to him, Jim Leyland ran out and spoke to the manager a bit, but no one flipped out, and no one was ejected. As far as huge blown calls go, it was probably handled the better than any I’ve ever seen.

Personally, I think Joyce knew instantly that he’d made the wrong call. I think he was so determined to make sure he called things fair and didn’t give an advantage to the pitcher that he ended up going too far in the other direction. I also believe that the Cabrera not being ejected despite the fact that he kept jawing at Joyce shows that he knew he made the wrong call, and he wasn’t going to compound the situation unless Cabrera got into Joyce’s face and made it obvious he was still talking at him. As with the whole situation, cooler heads prevailed.

As the announcers knew almost instantly, this would turn the heat all the way up on the instant replay debate. FanGraphs put something up last night, showing quotes from Bill Simmons, Tony Kornheiser, Keith Law, Henry Schulman from the San Francisco Chronicle, Jayson Stark, Christine Brennan from USA Today, Jeff Passan from Yahoo Sports, and Buster Olney all supporting the expansion of instant replay in baseball.  At the time, I wondered how anyone would be able to see what happened and not agree with them (and not, as I did, feel sick to their stomach). Unfortunately, Mike Scioscia was kind enough to be just that person.

In an article up today on the Angels Official Page, Scioscia says, “I think there are too many plays that are close that could possibly be up for review. I think it would become dysfunctional if you put [review] in there any more than it already is.” Scioscia is, of course, wrong.

In the NFL, not only do head coaches have the ability to ask for up to two reviews per game, but after the two minute warning the booth upstairs and, and often does, call for a review themselves. In the NHL the officials are allowed to review whether or not the puck crossed the line for a goal. In the NBA, instant replay can be used on plays as time expires when they could affect the outcome of the game. The NBA’s instant replay rules were adopted in 2002, the NHL’s in 1991, and the NFL’s current replay rules were adopted in 1999. It took Major League Baseball until 2008 to start using instant replay. Before that date, the CFL, NCAA basketball, professional tennis, and even Little League International all adopted some form of instant replay. To say the baseball has been woefully behind the times in this area is to understate the situation.

Expanding instant replay in baseball does not mean every ball and strike would be up for review. It does not mean every umpire has to leave the field, walk back to the clubhouse or wherever to watch a monitor, debate what happened, then file back out and make their call. It does not mean it would be used every game. It does, however, mean that things like the travesty we saw last night could’ve been avoided, and that Galarraga could’ve rightfully celebrated his perfect game, instead of being complimented on how gracefully he handled a terrible situation. Instead of going down in history as the Rosa Parks of instant replay in baseball, he’d go down as one of only 21 people to throw a perfect game.

People like Scioscia and Joe Morgan (God, how I wish I didn’t have to put our manager in that grouping) were saying the same things when there was talk of instant replay for home run calls, and it hasn’t happened. It has not been “dysfunctional,” and it hasn’t made the games unbearably long. Instead, it has made sure that people are credited for what actually happens on the field. If you hit a HR now, even if it was miscalled originally, there’s still a way you and your team can get credit for that call. Someone being against this happening, whether in some misguided attempt to preserve “tradition” or because they don’t want to “slow down the game,” is simply baffling to me. It is actively promoting bad calls being accepted, plain and simple. If the audience at home can know within 20 seconds that Joyce’s call at first was bad, then there’s no reason why the guy who made the call shouldn’t also be able to know that, and make it right. It means that people hundreds of miles away, sitting at home in the dark surrounded by a sea of Coors Light cans can better know what is happening on the field than the people calling the game, and there is no universe in which that is right. It is something that baseball should, and I believe will, fix.

In 2010, there is simply no excuse for something like this happening. The technology exists to solve this problem, and it is simply inaction and stubbornness on the part of the Commissioner’s Office that the problem is allowed to continue. It is, in a word, unacceptable.