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Instant Replay is a Thing That Needs to Happen Now

No more victimizing guys like Galarraga.
No more victimizing guys like Galarraga.

In the history of mankind, society has always seemed to embrace new technology. When a new scientific device is created to further research, scientists don’t normally wait long to use it. New gadgets don’t stay on the shelves very long, as evinced by the numerous amounts of people already complaining about flaws in a video game only days after its release. So why is it that we ignore technology and let archaic rules interfere with our enjoyment of the country’s national pastime?

Twice this year, the Mets have been involved in no-hitters that could have changed through the use (or neglect) of instant replay. In the middle of Johan Santana's no-hitter, Carlos Beltran lined a ball down the left-field line that was ruled foul by the third base umpire. Replays showed that the ball was clearly fair and Beltran would have reached second base with a double. Forget the no-hitter--the next batter would have been the tying run at the plate for the Cardinals. That's a potential difference of a game for St. Louis, and without instant replay to look at the call again, they could not reap the benefits of Beltran's hit. In yesterday's start by R.A. Dickey, B.J. Upton hit a ball slowly up toward David Wright at third base, and Wright could not get a grip on the ball as he tried to barehand it. At first glance (and as some might say, later glances), it might have been considered an error due to Wright's bobble, but because the official could look at instant replay, he was able to rule it an infield single. The play was not easy to make, and Upton flies down the first base line. Give umpires the same ability that the official scorer already utilizes. In some dimensions, the Mets just had two no-hitters pitched within a couple weeks, and in another, they had none (disregard the other ones wherein Terry Collins does an Elvis Costello number between each half-inning while Joe Maddon kowtows to a pretzel).

Baseball needs to implement a better instant replay system. Anyone watching a baseball game on TV can see the replay of an important moment within seconds of the moment’s occurrence. We can see if the umpire on the field made the right call or not in very short time. So why can’t the umpire also see this replay and adjust the call if he made a mistake?

Umpires don't want to give up power, so of course they do not want to see instant replay implemented even after a memorable game on June 2, 2010 that proved why MLB needs replay. On that date, Detroit Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga retired 26 Cleveland Indians batters in a row, and was just one out away from pitching an elusive perfect game (of which only 22 have been thrown in the 143-year history of MLB). The 27th batter, Jason Donald, hit a groundball to Tigers first baseman Miguel Cabrera, who flipped the ball to Galarraga covering first base. Instant replay clearly showed the ball being caught seconds before Donald’s foot hit the first base bag, but the umpire, Jim Joyce called Donald safe. With instant replay, the Tigers could have potentially challenged the call and after watching the replay, Joyce most likely would have been able to call him out, thus awarding Galarraga his perfect game. Alas, this was not what happened, and baseball fans could only watch in embarrassment as Galarraga induced the next batter to ground out to end the "Imperfect game." After the game, Joyce later said that he supported replay, an act that earned him some undeserved scorn from his fellow umpires.

The sad thing is that any baseball fan could have foretold that an umpiring error as ill-timed as the Donald call would occur eventually. Instant replay technology has improved so dramatically over the past few years that fans have been able to notice even more poor judgments. In fact, it took one miserable week in May 2008 for MLB to implement any instant replay at all. During that week, umpires blew three important home run calls in three different parks to spark MLB to finally look into installing instant replay. They were able to successfully start applying these replays only four months later, but it still had limitations. Only plays involving potential home runs could be replayed, and the umpires had to decide for themselves if they would look at replay (though badgering managers help this decision). It’s not perfect, but it’s something. A question arises again though: why were the executives able to approve and use instant replay on home run calls in so short a time but are still so stubborn about instant replay on other calls? I know many fans who get the feeling that sooner or later, a blown call is going to help decide a World Series again, just as it did in 1985. Almost 30 years later, the scrutiny MLB would fall under for such a blown call would make the reaction in '85 look like a cakewalk.

Pro football, basketball, hockey and tennis all have much better instant replay systems than baseball. Football coaches get two challenges per game and even when they are not permitted to challenge calls, an assistant official in the press box can still elect to review the play. Basketball officials are allowed to review "buzzer beaters" and appropriate field goal scoring. In hockey, on-ice referees or a replay judge can check replay on goals, and in the Olympics, all goals are automatically reviewed. Tennis players are allowed three challenges per match. All the other popular sports can get instant replay mostly right, baseball. Why can’t you?