There were two outs in the top of the ninth inning. Detroit Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga needed one more for a perfect game.
Cleveland’s Jason Donald hit a soft grounder, then he beat the throw to first for an infield hit — at least according to umpire Jim Joyce. Replays clearly showed that Donald was out. In 2010, it was too late to save Gallaraga’s place in the record books — but next season could be a different story. Earlier this week, Major League Baseball announced plans to expand its use of instant replay. Jay Jaffe, who wrote about the proposal for SI.com, joined Doug Tribou.
DT: Jay, let’s start with a brief summary of the proposed changes. Tell us what baseball has in mind.
JJ: Baseball is expanding instant replay to go from what are called boundary calls on which the only real jurisdiction is whether a ball is a home run, a foul ball, or fan interference or stayed in the park to including fair and foul calls down the lines, caught or trap calls, and outs on the base paths.
The mechanism for this though is a questionable one. It’s going to involve a system of managerial challenges whereby each manager will be allowed one challenge in the first six innings of a game and two in the final three innings of a game with no provisions for more challenges in extra innings. If a manager challenges a call and the call is upheld, meaning that the manager was wrong, he loses that challenge. If the manger is right, he retains that challenge. So really, the critics of this, myself included, think that this shifts the burden away from the umpires and onto the managers as far as who’s being right.
DT: Tell me a little bit more about what you mean by that.
JJ: I think the primary focus of instant replay should be to get the call right. The primary focus should not be on whether the manager is using the right strategy in hoarding his challenges until a certain point in the game. And really, if you’re a critic of MLB’s umpiring and want to see more accountability and more responsibility taken for getting the calls right, I don’t think this is all that good a solution.
DT: What would your ideal instant replay system look like?
JJ: Well, I’m not sure there’s a perfect system, but the one that I envision and that I think would get some kind of buy-in from the umpires would be to have a fifth umpire on each crew, an eye in the sky, who’s got access to all of the video feeds and who can decide whether a call should be reviewed and quickly relay that information to the field that a call should be overturned. It’s keeping the umpires in charge of it as opposed to making the managers in charge of it.
DT: In 2012, games averaged 2:56. That’s three to four minutes longer than the days before the current review system which includes home runs. Isn’t more review just going to make games even longer?
JJ: Well, I’m not so sure. I mean we’ve seen games get slightly longer in the past few years but they weren’t because of instant replay. A study at the Boston Globe showed that it had a lot more to do with the players dawdling whether on the mound or in the batter’s box or stepping outside of the batter’s box then due to instant replay. MLB’s own study showed that the average review would take about a minute and a half whereas the average manager argument over these calls takes about three minutes, so by that note, I think you could envision this actually saving time.
DT: So, the NFL has red flags that coaches throw onto the field. Is it too late for you and I to suggest things baseball could use to make it a little more interesting? Maybe a remote control or a big picture of Billy Martin or Earl Weaver or something like that?
JJ: It’s probably not too late. It sounds like this is going to be voted on by the owners, you know, at their November meeting and then passed along to the players’ association and the umpires’ union. I think there’s still probably room for some tweaks so, yeah, maybe we can get the animatronic Billy Martin or something like that to come out of the dugout and signify that it’s on.