Dickey: Time for baseball to adopt instant replay 

The blown call that cost Armando Galarraga a perfect game has revived calls for more use of instant replay, as it should.
Commercial television long ago exposed the myth that baseball umpires always get it right.

The worst call, in terms of what it meant at the most important time was Don Denkinger’s blown call in the 1985 World Series, which was watched by millions on national television.

Jorge Orta of the Kansas City Royals hit a grounder to St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Jack Clark, who tossed to pitcher Todd Worrell before Orta hit the bag. But umpire Don Denkinger called Orta safe. The Royals were trailing in the Series
3-2, but that gave them the chance to win that game 2-1. They won the Series the next day.

Baseball umpiring, in theory, should be easier than football or basketball officiating, where officials are often on the move when they’re making calls. Both home plate and base umpires are set and looking at a specific area.

Usually, they get it right. When the Giants and Padres played at AT&T on May 13, Padres pitcher Mat Latos was perfect for five innings. Eli Whiteside led off the bottom of the sixth and hit a liner back to the mound, which was deflected off Latos’ glove.

Third baseman Chase Headley made a snap throw to first, but Whiteside was ruled safe in a bang-bang play.

In the press box, we weren’t sure, but television replays showed the umpire got the call right.

Ten days later, I saw A’s catcher Kurt Suzuki catch a tipped ball which should have been strike three, but the plate umpire called it a foul ball — and the first base umpire agreed. A’s manager Bob Geren was thrown out for protesting.

This is an example of the worst change in umpiring, their quick triggers. Managers such as Earl Weaver and Bobby Cox used to argue calls, and it was just part of the game.

No longer. Umpires have very short fuses. Houston pitcher Roy Oswalt got thrown out of a game this week by a home plate umpire — even though Oswalt was talking to the first base umpire. The first thing hitters and pitchers do is find out what the strike zone is that day. Forget the rule book. Individual umpires set their own strike zones.

Jim Joyce, the umpire who blew the call on Galarraga, is not in that category. He is widely respected, and he apologized to Galarraga after the game.

“I thought it was the right call when I made it,” he said, “but when I saw the replay, I realized I was wrong.”

Exactly. The key words are “when I saw the replay.”

There’s no reason to restrict umpires from reviewing  calls. The lament about “losing the human element” is ludicrous. Baseball will always be played by humans. It won’t be a computer game. But we have the technology to review calls. It should be used.

The NFL went to instant replay after a blown call in an AFC Championship between the Broncos and Raiders. Hopefully, this blown call will be the impetus for baseball to get out of the 19th century.

Glenn Dickey has been covering Bay Area sports since 1963 and also writes on www.GlennDickey.com. E-mail him at glenndickey@hotmail.com.

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Glenn Dickey

Glenn Dickey

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