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Status quo would be right call

Expanded replay use not good for the game

By Nick Cafardo
Globe Staff / June 4, 2010

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It’s such an emotional issue that it would have been easy for commissioner Bud Selig to show off his power by reversing umpire Jim Joyce’s botched call so Armando Galarraga could be the proud owner of a perfect game. Selig also could have reacted by immediately expanding the use of instant replay.

But he did what any good leader would do; he stepped back, took emotion out of the decision, and will have his special committee for on-field matters discuss the possibility of expanded replay to reduce umpiring mistakes.

The hope here is that the replay system remains as is. An expanded version would open the same can of worms Selig would have had he overturned Joyce’s call. Where do you stop? Better yet, where do you start? What qualifies for review, what doesn’t?

“There are too many plays that are close that would possibly be up for review,’’ Angels manager Mike Scioscia said yesterday. “I think it could become dysfunctional if you put it in any more than this [the current system for border home run calls].’’

Scioscia also is opposed to a form of the NFL challenge system.

“I don’t think it would work,’’ he said. “To keep it on a limited basis, I think it’s a positive for the game. To go beyond that, I don’t think it would be a positive for the game.

“There’s a certain human element to this game that keeps it going. It’s an accepted part of the game that umpires have the responsibility of calling the game.’’

Baseball has always wanted the human element involved. That means you’re not always going to get the call right.

The techno-geeks will argue that in the 21st century, why not utilize instant replay? Why not use technology?

But if you’re going to do that, then why not remove the umpires altogether and have a guy in the press box watch each play and make a ruling, then push a button.

Imagine: Ground ball to third, Alex Rodriguez throws across the diamond to Mark Teixeira to nip Dustin Pedroia by a half-step. What say you, press box mediator? Green light is safe, red light is out. Suddenly, a red light flashes on the scoreboard. “He’s out!’’

Is that what we want baseball to become?

It’s terrible what happened to Galarraga Wednesday night. Given time to reflect, you realize what a great lesson both men provided with the tremendous sportsmanship they exhibited. Joyce, practically in tears, admitted to Galarraga he made a mistake. And Galarraga, who may never again come close to a perfect game, accepted it graciously and uttered, “Nobody’s perfect.’’

Yesterday, Galarraga brought the Tigers’ lineup card out to Joyce, who will likely carry this decision with him for a long time, and already has had to deal with lowlifes harassing his family over a missed call in a baseball game.

The way Joyce and Galarraga handled it? What sportsmanship. What a learning moment for America. What a way to encapsulate what the sport is all about — and to show that the people involved in it aren’t perfect.

Pitchers don’t always throw strikes. If hitters fail seven out of 10 times, they’re having a very good season. Fielders make errors. Managers take pitchers out too soon or not soon enough. Outfielders overthrow cutoff men. Base runners don’t steal every base. Third base coaches send runners when they’re not supposed to, and don’t send them when they should. Umpires blow calls.

The failures and successes make the game what it is.

If Joyce was out there trying to make a statement with a pig-headed call because he felt he was the story, then that’s something none of us would agree with. But when he saw the play, he felt the runner was safe. He didn’t make a safe call to mess with Galarraga. He made it because that’s what he thought he saw.

Ripping umpires over calls has gone on since the beginning of the sport. It’s the easiest thing to do — blame the ump — and as a society we do it without blinking an eye. Every time there’s a wrong outcome, we want action, people fired, things changed.

If we did that, we would have missed the tremendous benefit of what happened in Detroit.

Jim Joyce stood up against the hostile crowd and said he was wrong. Armando Galarraga put aside the agony of missing out on a personal accomplishment he deserved, and forgave him.

That’s the human element technology will never be able to provide.

Nick Cafardo can be reached at cafardo@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @nickcafardo.

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