An Argument for Instant Replay

There is something to be said for the expanded use of instant replay in baseball. And nothing proves that more than umpire Adrian Johnson’s botched call to preserve a no-hitter for the Mets’ Johan Santana last weekend.

Call me nit-picky, but I take pride in the history of the greatest game in the world. And Johnson missed a call that is almost never missed. Only this time, it had a major effect on a game that will now go down in history as the first no-hitter in New York Mets history.

If I was a Mets fan, I’d celebrate the no-no. As a baseball fan, I applaud Santana for a fantastic effort, and for adding to an incredible personal comeback story. But it’s just like the home run chase in 1998, or Barry Bonds in 2001. It was worth celebrating, but there’s a guilty pain to knowing the record is tainted.

Again, no disrespect intended to Santana or Mets fans. He pitched one hell of a gem. But when a ball lands near the foul line and white dirt sprays up in the air, chances are it hit the foul line. For those of you who don’t know, that’s a fair ball. Please see my fancy, attached, stolen-from-Google diagram here:

Johnson could have taken a step forward after the call, looked at the divot in the dirt, and seen that it was clearly a fair ball. But he wouldn’t have been able to reverse it. And while there’s no point in arguing the call now (though Cardinals’ manager Mike Matheny and third base coach Jose Oquendo did their best), the question must still be begged: why not expand instant replay? This isn’t the first time a bad call has changed the course of baseball history.

I’m sure nobody has forgotten Philip Humber’s perfect game quite yet. Say what you want, but the last pitch of the game, a 3-2 check swing to Brendan Ryan, was a ball. See for yourself. And I hate to bring this up again, but the names Jim Joyce and Armando Galarraga can’t be mentioned in baseball circles without widespread shudders. Where Humber’s name is in the record books, it should read “Galarraga.”

Bad calls are a part of the game, but we’ve come to an era of technology that allows us to make changes in order to ensure the correct calls are made, especially in situations with historic ramifications.

I’m not asking for an umpire’s complete judgment to be exterminated from the sport. I don’t want machines taking over calling balls and strikes. But is it so much to ask that there’s a main official who reviews a play like that from the booth upstairs and radios it down? For a play such as the one in the Cardinals/Mets game, that whole process would take approximately five seconds.

Haters of this proposition may point out that you can’t stop a play in the middle of a base hit to have said reviews. That’s why the umpire would let the play roll, and send the hitter back if it turns out to be foul.

Either way, instant replay does need to be expanded. You may say “it was just one game.” But the reality is that every game, every play, every pitch and every call really does affect a season in the long run. Ask the 2011 Boston Red Sox and Atlanta Braves how much they wish they had won “just one more game.”

I know the issue is on the table for 2013, as it should be. I just sincerely hope that a blown call doesn’t wipe out a team’s chances in October. Because then the pro-replay mob won’t be asking so nicely for change.

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