This came as an alley-oop for Bud Selig, and the baseball commissioner slammed it home.
Never, ever would Selig have overturned Jim Joyce's brutal call that ruined Armando Galarraga's perfect game Wednesday night. The ramifications would've been wide-reaching and, in a baseball context, terrifying. As the Yankees' Nick Swisher told The Associated Press yesterday: "I feel that if you do overturn something like that, you're opening up Pandora's box with a lot of other things."
But now that Selig got it right on the past, he needs to do just as well on the future.
We need expanded instant replay for baseball, ideally in time for the playoffs. A legitimate argument against it does not exist. And make no mistake, it's coming now. If not by October, then perhaps for the 2011 season.
If you read the statement Selig issued yesterday, the six most important words are "the expanded use of instant replay." That represents a leap for the commish, who has been steadfast about his desire to limit replay to the current home run border calls.
This is how it works with Selig: He's stubborn but not unshakable. An event like Wednesday's will shake someone even of Selig's considerable experience.
So how do we do it? There are a few different avenues, yet we all can agree to take balls and strikes off the table. We're talking safe and out, fair and foul, catcher's interference.
Add a fifth umpire to each crew and make "replay judge" part of the home-first-second-third rotation. The fifth ump sits in a booth and renders the final verdict on all close calls.
You want to look over every shaky call? Fine with me. You want to limit it and follow the NFL's model, giving each manager one challenge per game? Works for me, too.
It's not going to slow down the game, because the game currently comes to a halt each time the manager waddles onto the field, venting his frustration with the umpire. With replay, if the manager leaves the dugout? He's suspended.
"Taking away the human element"? Puh-leeze. A blown umpiring call has nothing to do with a ground ball going through Bill Buckner's legs, or Carlos Beltran getting frozen by an Adam Wainwright curveball. When a player errs, the other side benefits. When an umpire goofs, no one truly benefits, because the winner's accomplishments get called into question.
Most of the umpires want expanded replay to happen. Most of the general managers want it, too. The Players Association signed off on the initial replay, so it shouldn't be too difficult to sell the union on this.
In some way, the Joyce/Galarraga story proved to be a wonderful lesson in humanity. The umpire took full accountability for his mistake. Galarraga exhibited his forgiveness by taking the lineup card to home plate before yesterday's game.
It would be better today if we were discussing three perfect games in less than a month. We'd find other reasons to feel good about ourselves.
Selig is off to a good start on this one. It's essential that he finish it strong. It's fun that baseball is the talk of the country. It'll be more fun when we're no longer wondering, "What would've been?" if not for umpiring errors.
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