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Give Galarraga the Perfecto and Bring on Instant Replay

I admit that I haven't read many discussion boards about this subject, and I've only heard some of the commentary on TV. I'm sure there are angles here that I haven't considered. Having said that, I would go against my instincts and give Armando Galarraga the perfect game. I'd take away Jason Donald's single, declare it an out, assume that Jim Joyce cameras got the call right and decree that Trevor Crowe never came to bat. I'd do this for several reasons:

1. This is a storybook story. Three perfect games in one year. I seriously doubt that anyone would object—certainly not publicly.
2. It fits the personalities. It takes a heavy burden off Jim Joyce's shoulders and rewards a good guy who responded to a bad call with true grace.
3. This is a perfectly benign situation, the last out of a game in which the outcome of the play affects nothing except the record books (and that in a correct manner).
4. It sends a message that something will be done in the near future. That we will have some form of Instant Replay, and soon.

My instincts? They tell me not to overrule Joyce. Such a ruling sets a dangerous precedent—If you're willing to overrule an ump for a relatively meaningless game in early June, why not do it when something serious is at stake, like in the postseason? Why give this game special treatment when there are probably hundreds of others that would "benefit" from the same decision?

I'm overruling my instincts here because I think more Instant Replay is inevitable in the game of baseball, and I'd rather make a positive statement here than a negative one. That is, I'd rather say: "This was the first game in which we approached things differently" instead of "This was the last game in which we approached things differently."

Instant Replay is already in place in baseball; we're using it to review home run decisions today. Everyone seems comfortable with the process. It's been deemed a "success" by most commentators I've heard. Does anyone seriously doubt that we'll soon be implementing it in more situations?

I see an incremental rollout in the long run. First of all, there are so many areas in which it could be easily and positively used today, such as bang-bang plays at first and close plays at the plate. These are the sorts of plays that don't require a "do over." The outcome of the play could be reviewed on the spot, a different judgment applied (or not) and the game could resume its course. The Joyce call is a perfect example.

"Do over" plays, such as improperly trapped balls that were mistakenly called outs, would require the runners to return to their bases and the batter to bat again. I see those types of plays as the next phase, after everyone is comfortable with the previous phase and there is some high-profile, terrible call that doesn't get Instant Replayed because it would have required a do over.

And in the long long run, we may well see those Pitchf/x overrule umpires on really bad ball and strike calls. Wouldn't surprise me at all.

Yes, I'm an incrementalist. At my age, I've been in (and led) too many implementations that were built from the "ground up" and meant to be perfect, throwing aside all previous systems and their inherent mistakes. These implementations nearly always failed. I'm now more cautious and much prefer a phased approach toward new systems and ways of doing things. You learn better from changing things at a manageable pace, isolating the changes you make and taking note of which ones work and why. You grow with your new system.

That's why I'm in favor of the phased approach. Some people think we should have people at video monitors, watching all games, calling the umps when a bad call is made. To me, that is too much, too fast, too many things likely to go wrong.

Give managers an option to question an ump once a game on plays that don't require a "do over." If the ump is overruled, the manager gets another option. If he's wrong, that's it. No more options.

What I like most about it? It would give us another opportunity to talk about Win Probability. Heh.

Read more great baseball stuff at The Hardball Times.


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