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Open Letter to Bud Selig

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Dear Mr. Selig,

Jim Joyce's blown call that wiped away what was clearly a perfect game has reignited the push for wider use of instant replay in baseball. That we're still having this debate is a sad testament to the snail's pace of progress in Major League Baseball these days, but you can begin to atone for those mistakes right now.  At a time in which the technology is both readily available and cost-effective, in which other sports have successfully implemented effective review procedures, and in the midst of a series of embarrassingly obvious umpiring gaffes dating back to the 2009 postseason, Major League Baseball must allow the immediate, unfettered use of instant replay during games.

Purists will cry foul, citing the pace of games among their list of technical but largely trivial concerns.  I don't care. The wild card, the designated hitter, divisional play, and even night games were all originally met by stiff resistance from many of those same purists, and yet all of those ideas have worked out rather well for fans, owners, and players alike. In this age of technology, it is utterly dumbfounding that umpiring errors are accepted, even implicitly condoned, under the guise of "the human element", because if this is in fact an appropriate and proper rationalization, we should be discussing things like the Reserve Clause, collusion, and the steroids scandal in these terms as well.  What kind of reaction do you suppose you would have elicited had you cited "the human element" when testifying before Congress a few years ago?

Somebody will have to determine the parameters of how this new system will work, but I have no doubt this can be accomplished effectively and quickly.  We can all agree on a few basics - no arguing balls and strikes, and limiting the number of reviews to no more than 1-2 per team per game.  Let's be honest; each baseball game is already interrupted by 15-20 commercial breaks between innings and during pitching changes.  One single additional break, perhaps no more than once or twice per week across the entire MLB schedule, isn't going to offend fans or drive away advertisers, especially not when it's done in the interests of accurately calling a critical play in a close game.

As for this particular blown call, reverse it, because asking us to pretend that Jason Donald wasn't out and that Armando Galarraga didn't pitch a perfect game is about as intellectually dishonest as Ford Frick using an asterisk to keep Babe Ruth as the single-season home run king.  With instant replay rolling out shortly, you won't have to worry about setting a precedent, but even barring that, we all know that rigid, inflexible rules prove to be a poor substitute for the best judgment of critical thinkers during extenuating and unusual circumstances.  Consider both the spirit and the letter of the law, as you did during Game 5 of the 2008 World Series. Had you called that game after 6 innings due to weather and awarded the win to the Phillies, you would have been in full compliance with baseball's rulebook, yet you correctly judged that crowning a World Series champion after a rainout would not be in the best interests of the game.  This situation is no different.

It's in your hands.  We can spend the rest of the season celebrating an unprecedented trio of perfect games, or we can spend it dissecting what has just become the most infamous blown call in the history of the sport, an ugly situation which could have been easily avoided by utilizing instant replay technology that already exists in every Major League ballpark.  Choose carefully.