Column: Time for MLB to step up to the plate

By Chris Lusk

Major League Baseball is up to bat at a crucial moment.

Armando Galarraga’s quest to pitch the 21st perfect game in MLB history screeched to a halt Wednesday evening as a result of something every sports enthusiast fears: a blown call.

And what happened in the bottom of the ninth inning at Comerica Park in Detroit wasn’t just a bad call, it was the worst-possible bad call at the worst-possible time.

Consider the events:

• Galarraga, Detroit Tigers pitcher, was on the verge of becoming the third pitcher to pitch a perfect game since May 9.

• The Venezuela-native had retired 26 of Cleveland’s batters and had one final out before reaching perfection.

• Indians short stop Jason Donald hit a grounder toward Tigers first baseman Miguel Cabrera.

• Cabrera fielded the ball and fired it to Galarraga, who was covering at the first-base bag for out No. 27.

• Galarraga caught the ball, tagged the base and braced himself to simultaneously exhale and celebrate as the perfect-game club’s newest member.

• Jim Joyce, first-base umpire, inexplicably ruled Donald safe and immediately sent the 17,738-person crowd in Detroit into a uniformed outrage. Not to mention the Tigers players and coaches, and baseball fans across the nation.

• Perfect game thwarted.

No, this wasn’t a blown call — this was a total lapse of judgement and an inexcusable mistake. Even die-hard Indians fans must admit Donald was clearly out.

With one call, Joyce successfully went from relatively obscure umpire to baseball’s biggest villain for the immediate future.

Upon watching the reply, Joyce asked to speak with Galarraga and offered a tearful apology. Incredibly honorable, if you ask me. It’s rare to see an umpire acknowledge a mistake, especially in such a swift manner, and I believe the umpire’s actions have reignited a controversial debate in the league: Replay.

Baseball is a game that prides itself on its dependence on the human eye, but Wednesday’s abomination strengthens the pro-replay argument.

MLB uses replay to determine whether home runs are fair or foul. And since the league implemented the technology in 2008, it seems to be working just fine. So why not expand it?

I don’t want to expand baseball’s replay system to include every pitch, every catch and every call. That would be absurd. But shouldn’t the sport strive to get the big calls — the game-changing decisions — accurate?

But, you may say, how do we define what is a big call? Simple: By using common sense.

I’m not saying to visit the replay booth when something happens at the start of a game, but in the final innings of a tight game, sneak a peak at the replay monitor when a crucial call is made. Anything that would majorly affect the outcome of said game can be quickly reviewed.

Replay doesn’t work 100 percent of the time, as every OU football fan is well aware of (don’t make me bring up the Disastrous Ducks Debacle of 2006), but it has a greater accuracy on calls like Joyce’s than the human eye, as most amateur replay officials sitting at home can attest to.

There will inevitably be an outcry for the league to overturn the botched call and award Galarraga with his rightfully earned perfect game. Will league officials listen? I’m not sure. Should they? I’m not sure.

However, what they can do is take a look at a limited expansion of MLB’s replay system and ensure Wednesday’s situation doesn’t happen again.

Consider the scenario: Joyce rules Donald safe. Realizing the magnitude of his call, he jogs over to the replay booth, deliberates with the other umpires for a few minutes, heads back to the field and throws up the “out” sign. It certainly wouldn’t be as gratifying to Galarraga as if the proper call would have been instantly after the play, but the 28-year-old pitcher would make his mark in the record books.

Baseball purists argue that replay slows an already slow game down. One of MLB Commissioner Bud Selig’s arguments against expanding replay is nobody wants to sit through hours of officials double checking every questionable call.

I agree. But if if a limited-replay system is used, how much would the game really be extended? Maybe 15, 20 minutes? After witnessing the travesty that occurred Wednesday night at Comerica Park, who wouldn’t sacrifice a few extra minutes in the name of accuracy?

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