July 1, 2010
There have been several instances in the past few years that have fueled the debate over whether or not the MLB should use expanded instant replay. Most recently, Armando Galarraga was robbed of a perfect game when Jim Joyce blew a call at first base with two outs in the ninth inning. I applaud Mr. Joyce for coming clean after the game and admitting his mistake, but it still remains a very unfortunate situation that can't be avoided without the use of instant replay.
It wasn't long ago that the MLB decided to use instant replay on home run calls. This is a great step in the right direction, but there is so much more instant replay potential out there. There could be cameras set up to capture close plays at each base. If there was a close play on the field, then a team of replay officials could view the video of the play and decide if the umpire made the correct call. This would minimize coaches throwing fits and players going on the brink of violence when a call doesn't go their way. Cameras could be set up to view fair/foul balls down the lines. If a ball was called "fair" on the field but clearly appeared to be foul on the replay, the batter could easily be called back to the plate to finish the at-bat. Obviously, a foul ball could not be ruled "fair" by a replay official because the play would have already been stopped by the umpire on the field.
I don't think that Major League Baseball should use instant replay on balls and strikes for one main reason. It would probably take too much time for the replay crew to review all the close balls and strikes. Every inning, there are always a few ball/strike calls that could go either way. Reviewing every single one of the ball/strike calls would make games way too long. There are already a good number of sports fans who opt to watch football in September and October because baseball games are too long and boring. Many fans think the MLB could use a system similar to ESPN's "K Zone" or whatever they call it now. I don't think this would work because the strike zone can vary pitch to pitch depending on how the batter stands in the box.
The success of the NFL's and NBA's use of instant replay alone should be enough to sway Bud Selig's decision. Instant replay is used to near perfection in nearly every game played by teams from the NFL and NBA. The NBA's use of instant replay is limited to the shot clock, out of bounds calls, and whether or not a player got a shot off in time. The NFL uses instant replay in a variety of situations and they haven't had any major problems with it.
Major League Baseball will expand its use of instant replay in the future. Unfortunately, it will probably take a few more situations similar to that of Armando Galarraga's near perfect game. The technology is in place, now it's time for Bud Selig to drag his feet into the 21st century.
Max Van Hollebeke is a contributing columnist to myGameBalls.com.