MLB

Screw-up should pave way for replay

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Bob Klapisch

Bob Klapisch covers baseball for The Record in New Jersey and worked at the New York Post and New York Daily News. The author of five books, he was recently voted a top-five columnist in the country by the Associated Press Sports Editors.

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Is there any doubt baseball has reached the tipping point on instant replay? Is there any reason why the game shouldn't finally defer to technology?

Jim Joyce's appalling blown call on what should've been the 27th out of Armando Galarraga's perfect game was the last straw. It destroyed the old-school argument that umpires' imperfection — and in some cases, their incompetence — is part of baseball's historic charm.

What nonsense. Millions of fans were able to see that Galarraga, covering first base, took Miguel Cabrera's toss and beat Jason Donald by a step. A full step. Joyce saw it, too – but far too late. Only after viewing the replay in the umpires' room was Joyce flattened by the realization that the perfect game had been soiled by the imperfect call.

Baseball has never been played with greater speed and skill; this is the golden age of the sport's athleticism. It shouldn't be shackled by umpires, no matter how well-intentioned and well-meaning.

No one questions Joyce's integrity and professionalism. After 22 years in the game, he's earned his fine reputation. But Joyce's street cred only deepens the wound in Detroit. If a pro like Joyce can't be counted on to get it right, what alternative does Bud Selig have but to give the tough calls to the electronic eye?

The purists might howl in protest. Then again, maybe not. If anyone knows how it feels to blow a call — and a game and, ultimately, a season -- it's Don Denkinger, who cost the Cardinals the World Series in 1985.

Denkinger's blown call in the ninth inning of Game 6 ruined St. Louis' chances of a 1-0 victory, allowing the Royals to stage a comeback and win, 2-1. The next night in Game 7, the Royals rolled to an 11-0 blowout, finishing off a Series that, to this day, is spoken of contemptuously in Cardinals country.

Denkinger lives with the regret of that blown call on Jorge Orta, and is now a proponent of instant replay.

"I'm in favor of getting all the calls correct, whatever it takes," the former umpire told the Bergen Record last season. "I don't see how (Selig) can get away with not (introducing instant replay). It makes no sense not to. There's nothing better than getting every call right."

Denkinger did say, "overall, umpiring today is as good as it's ever been" but he's not embarrassed to say instant replay trumps the synapses of the human brain every time.

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  • Does MLB need to expand instant replay?
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"The way the game used to be played, what (the rulings were) just stood," Denkinger said. "But now, there's so much technology out there that can tell you if you're right or wrong, why not use it?

"Why not have a guy in the (broadcast) booth who can review the play and get a ruling in 20 seconds? I don't think anyone wants to see the game delayed any more than it is, but I think everyone wants to get the calls right. That's the scenario every umpire thinks about."

Selig will come under increasing pressure to accelerate the transition to instant replay. There are too many intelligent voices now calling for it, including the players and most fans. Joyce himself was distraught over Wednesday night's call, which is as heartbreaking as it is maddening.

Joyce's legacy is now permanently re-written, just as Denkinger's was 25 years ago. Only, it doesn't have to be this way. The technology is now available to make sure the game is played fairly and that every close call is properly scrutinized.

The time for instant replay's full integration has come. It's time not just to modernize baseball, but to purify it, too.

Tagged: Tigers

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