"Come sit on my lap and let me tell you why your great-grandfather is the reason Baseball finally adopted full instant replay."
--Jim Joyce, 2038.
Hey, you have to search for the silver lining, right?
Craig Calcaterra at NBC Sports' Hardball Talk has it right:
It is absolutely imperative that baseball implement some form of replay now. This season, before the playoffs. The best way, in my view, is to simply station a fifth umpire in the official scorer's box. Give him the same feed the broadcast guys have. Give him a buzzer and, when an obviously bad call like this one happens, have him call down to the crew chief and overturn the call.
I'd take it a step further. While the logistics of the in-park review system are designed and implemented, put somebody at headquarters on a monitor for each game. Give those people--I don't care if they're summer interns--a hard line to whatever phone in the ballpark connects to someone able to stop play immediately.
Why am I being so dramatic? Because Major League Baseball has on its hands this evening the mother of all public relations disasters. I'm not going to pull a Roy Williams here, but I will say this: Baseball's response needs to be swift and forceful. Perhaps even needlessly wasteful. Anything to assure fans that every effort will be made to never miss an easy call again. There's simply no excuse for this situation. None. Whatever time or nostalgia would be lost by implementing replay (if any) is now dwarfed by the gaping hole tonight's call left in baseball history.
There is only one response Baseball can make to this disastrous event, and that response does not include the phrase "We're looking into it." A long-term solution can't be worked out overnight, except...you know what? It can. And it starts with, "There will be a review process implemented across Major League Baseball as soon as humanly possible." No conditions. No qualifiers. No equivocation. If there isn't a full-fledged system tested and ready by the playoffs, Baseball will have lost more credibility with this fan than it has over any of the events of the last two decades.
Jim Joyce is getting killed tonight, and, yeah, he screwed up. But we're only having this discussion because, for several years now, the powers that be have resisted adapting the game to changing technology. This was, unfortunately, bound to happen. There was going to be a Jim Joyce. Baseball has left its umpires out to dry, and whether it was the twenty-seventh out of a perfect game, a fair/foul call in a one-game playoff, or a questionable tag-up in the World Series, Commissioner Selig's office doomed the game's history to this fate by its obstinacy.
Armando Galarraga won't get tonight back. Even if Baseball retroactively awards him his deserved perfect game (which it shouldn't, but that's another column), he won't get the leap into Miguel Cabrera's arms. And he won't get the mob on the field. He won't get his brilliant moment of immortality. Instead, no matter what else he does in his baseball career, he'll be remembered for losing a perfect game on a bad call that didn't need to stand. And Jim Joyce will forever be That Guy, which is bad enough for one night. Try that tag on for eternity and let me know how it feels.
Major League Baseball failed Galarraga, Joyce, the Detroit Tigers, all the game's fans, and the game itself by resisting change for far too long. It is Bud Selig's immediate and primary duty to make sure nothing like this can ever happen again. While no system will be in place to protect another perfecto bid this season, blown calls are a certainty. And several of them will have the potential to materially affect pennant races. Nothing happening in baseball tomorrow is more important than figuring out how to reverse those calls in time to protect the fairness of the game.
Baseball has been on a costly, messy witch hunt for the better part of a decade under the "level playing field" flag. The entire time, it foolishly and stubbornly refused to ensure that the most precious commodity in the game--the out--is distributed fairly. Changes must be swift in coming and thorough in effect. We've heard for too long about the importance of protecting the integrity of the game to wait another day for replay's implementation throughout baseball. Fair or foul? Catch or trap? Safe or out? The players, umpires, and fans deserve the right answers to these questions, and they deserve them before another pitch is thrown. The changes aren't due tomorrow. They were due several years ago.
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