Thursday, June 3, 2010

MLB and Instant Replay

The commentary on last night's Detroit Tiger game--the perfect game that wasn't--has been terrific, including comments by fans made on the CNN site ("Selig to Examine Umpiring, Replay After 'Perfect' Error"). In response to one fan's argument that "IF Selig overrules the call – the batter is out, he loses his 'hit' and the perfect game is intact. The batter that followed him then gets his at bat (and out) taken off the books as the game was already over," a fan identified as Mutt2000 writes in response:
"I disagree. You don't fix a mistake by pretending it didn't happen (just doing it again). You fix a mistake by doing something proactive to right the wrong that was done. Sports are important because they teach life lessons on how to function as a society. If we introduce the life lesson of 'that one didn't count', , , , then we lower the standards by which we perceive truth and fairness. June 3, 2010 at 2:31 pm"
Love this debate . . . what do baseball fans have to say about expanding the role of instant replay to overturn umpires' calls in baseball?


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astrobassist said...

I tend to think that Bud Selig should overrule the decision. If Bud's decision is about "was this batter out or not" then the answer is unambiguously that he was out. If he was out, then Galarraga got 27 batters out, and it is a perfect game (the 28th batter being stricken from the record).

On the other hand, what if there was a call that went in Galarraga's favor earlier in the game? can Selig overturn the game on just the one call that happened to be controversial? If a similar play had happened in the first inning we never would have seen such an uproar.

I'd lean in favor of overturning it. Either way Selig should issue an informed decision officially and publicly. And he should adopt a replay rule like in football, where the coach can ask for a certain limited number of them during the game, with a penalty if it is not overturned. There is no good excuse for not including replays. I don't think keeping baseball old-fashioned for the sake of keeping it old-fashioned is a good enough reason.

Charles Gates said...

A decision by the commissioner to retroactively overturn a call inevitably opens up a can of worms sitting on the slippery slope of a little town called Trouble. Knee jerk reactionary decisions, like overturning Joyce’s safe call, are rarely in sync with the long term well being of whatever is at stake. No longer would ‘it be decided between the lines.’ Major League Baseball would be reduced to watching a play, then waiting around for the commissioner to take the temperature of the media outcry, then trying to go back and erase what happened while creating the smallest amount of disturbance to everything that also happened. An impossible task.

The better decision is to use this situation as a ‘Here’s why we need to increase the availability of instant replay in MLB’ argument. Increase the number of umpires per game to five, put one in a TV booth, and let the existing process of umpire initiated review run its course- only with the added benefit of instant replay. Umpires want to get the calls right. Give them the tools and system to do so.

astrobassist said...

Everyone says that overturning the call could open a can of worms--and I'm willing to believe that--but I haven't heard anyone bother to describe just what's in that can of worms. Is it really worms?

Either way, I would hardly call the commissioner ruling on the official nature of a perfect game--one of its rarest treasures of baseball--a knee jerk reaction.

It's true, that baseball should take matters very seriously, but by Selig's dismissal of the possibility did not convince me he IS taking it as seriously as he should.

What counts as a "retroactive" overturning? One could argue that umpires overturn calls all the time. Umpires overturned two crucial calls in the 2004 american league series, helping decide perhaps one of the most important games in one of the most important games in one of the most important series in the history of baseball. (clearly I'm a Sox fan, so I'm biased ;) Of course, these happened _during_ the game, not a few days after, but does that change the fact that they were a "retroactive" decision?

Either way, that does not necessarily make them better decisions. I just watched an NBA finals official overturn a goaltending call because a bunch of players yelled at him...

I think we all know that taking some time and reviewing some tape, in some cases, allows people to make _better_ calls than otherwise. For our most important statistics and accomplishments, like a perfect game, and calls one which that accomplishment hinges--the last out of a perfect game--it may be worth the trouble. The relative infrequency of this kind of occurrence makes the "slippery slope" argument less compelling.

Your solution--increasing the number of umpires per game with one of them always in a TV booth----may be more "knee jerk" than reversing this one call.

But I do agree with you that we should use this as a sign that we need to give replays a more serious role in controversial calls.

Griff said...

I've said before that I lean heavily toward "umpire voluntarism" (UV), such that an pitch is not a strike unless called so by the ump, etc. On such a view, then, the game was NOT a perfect game because Jim Joyce called the runner safe, making him actually SAFE.

Now the fact that other umpires can overrule calls (e.g., the third base ump can overrule a strike call by the home plate umpire, and so on) and that there are general guidelines that umps are "supposed" to follow (the strike zone, fair/foul marker, etc.) may lead one to contest UV.

But even if there are guidelines (rules?) that umps are supposed to follow, it might still be the case that, ultimately, what MAKES a pitch a strike or a ball, a runner safe or out, a hit ball fair or foul is the call of the umpire.

Of course, this doesn't really weigh in on the replay issue because a referee in the booth is still a referee, so even if replay were admitted, UV might still be true (i.e., that there is no objective fact of the matter independent of the umpires' ultimate call). But the idea of UV is really what interests me here.

What do you guys think? Are strikes and balls something over and above the call of the umpire? Does the fact that a runner's foot touches the base before the ball reaches it make him safe? Or only the call "SAFE"? I'd be interested in hearing your intuitions on these questions.