Thursday, June 3, 2010

The Time For Replay Has Arrived

As you've no doubt heard and seen by now, Armando Galarraga threw the 21st perfect game in major league history last night- except that umpire Jim Joyce incorrectly ruled that two outs in the ninth inning Jason Donald beat the throw to first base.

To the naked eye, the play looked close, but replays clearly confirmed that Donald was out and the game should have been over.

To their eternal credit, Galaraga and Joyce have both responded with more class and grace than you could ever hope for of two men in their respective positions. Joyce addressed the media after the game, taking full responsibility for his mistake ("It was the biggest call of my career and I kicked the ---- out of it," Joyce said), and tearfully apologized to Galarraga in the immediate aftermath. Galarraga didn't make a big scene, didn't scream and yell, didn't rip Joyce after the game, he simply took it all in stride and recorded the final, 28th out of his perfect game. It's hard to imagine a similar outcome would've unfolded if, say, Kevin Brown and Joe West were the parties involved.

As soon as I saw the play unfold I knew the replay debate would be renewed. The truth is now undeniable.

An expanded replay system needs to be in place for use in the major leagues. ASAP.

I'm all for the human element of the game, and with the pace of the game a concern, this needs to be done on a (very) limited basis. What form it would take, I don't know. Maybe each team could get one challenge a game, or one a week, or umpires would have discretion in the ninth inning (similar to the final two minutes of a football game). But in this day and age, the technology is already in place to show what the correct call should be for every play. And if the technology is in place and is not being utilized, all it will do is make the umpires look bad.

The contrast is especially striking for me, as I spent most of Wednesday night watching game three of the Stanley Cup Finals between the Chicago Blackhawks and my Philadelphia Flyers. (Just because I love baseball doesn't mean the Phillies are my only squad).

While the NHL is clearly the fourth of four majors on several fronts, it is tops in its use of technology. It's use is limited (only on goals), centralized (in the main NHL office in Toronto) and definitive. Twice during the game there was question as to whether or not a goal was scored by the Flyers. Once, replay showed the puck had completely crossed the goal line, and the Flyers were awarded a goal. The second time, in overtime no less, there was another play that appeared as if the puck crossed the goal line for the Flyers. The replay showed it did not, and no goal was awarded. The Flyers won a few minutes later on a goal with no controversy.

Ultimately, the NHL got both close calls correct, which is the ultimate goal of both officiating and the use of replay as an aid.

If you don't believe me, just ask Jim Joyce.

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