Courts have appeals and DNA tests. The NFL lets officials second guess themselves via video. So why should baseball not allow instant replay and challenges to eliminate errors that affect games’ outcomes?
The latest example of a need for this came in Saturday’s Atlanta Braves victory over Detroit, in which the game’s final pitch should NOT have been the game’s final pitch. Home plate umpire Gary Cederstrom called Detroit’s Johnny Damon out on strikes when video clearly showed that the pitch was outside. Had the correct call been made, the tying run would have scored from third, and who knows what would have happened?
Even the umpire made a tacit admission that he blew it. But if he had had the benefit of technology that other sports leagues have, no one would be complaining.
Of course, the Braves could have gone on to win in their next at bat, or in extra innings. However, the videotaped mistakes don’t end there. Remember the egregious umpire error that cost Detroit pitcher Armando Galarraga a perfect game this season? The Tigers must think they are living under a dark cloud. That call did not affect the game’s result, but it COULD have. It kept alive a game that should have ended.
(Updated 10/09/2010: Another controversial call occurred in Game 1 of the NLDS between Atlanta and San Francisco.)
Some of this is fate. Bad calls even out for all athletes and teams, just as bad breaks and misfortune do in real life.
But a sport that does not use a time clock and allows its full playing fields to vary in size could use a wake up call. All football fields are 100 yards long, but all baseball fields are NOT the same size. It may be 90 feet from base to base, but it’s a short poke to right field in Yankee Stadium — the new one, too — and also quite a short trip to the Green Monster in Fenway Park. All home runs are not created equal in baseball, just as all victories aren’t.
What if that call had happened on the final pitch of the World Series? Don’t think it can’t.
So until baseball wakes up and institutes some real quality control — it does allow replays to rule on home runs — it will continue to lose fan and TV appeal to the NFL and the NBA. Not to mention a lot of credibility.