MLB should follow NFL's lead on replay
Former NFL VP of Officiating Mike Pereira is a guest columnist for FOXSports.com.
Would you like to know how Jim Joyce feels? Just ask Earnie Frantz or Ed Hochuli.
It was Earnie Frantz who kept the Seattle Seahawks out of the playoffs in 1997 when he mistakenly ruled that Vinny Testaverde had scored on a quarterback sneak on a fourth down at the end of the Jets-Seahawks game in Week 17. Seattle coaches were fired shortly thereafter.
It was Ed Hochuli who handed Denver a victory in Week 2 of the 2008 season with his ruling that Jay Cutler had thrown an incomplete pass. It was clearly a fumble that San Diego had recovered. If the play had been ruled correctly, San Diego would have won the game. It almost cost San Diego a playoff game.
Jim Joyce cried and apologized. Earnie Frantz was so devastated he locked himself in his Dallas home and refused to talk to anyone. I thought he was so distraught he might decide to quit officiating. Thankfully, he did not. Ed Hochuli fessed up and admitted his error. We talked right after the game. He was a mess, but he got it together and addressed the media and the fans, eventually winning their support for accepting responsibility for his actions. Three great officials whose careers are tarnished by one significant error.
What did the NFL do? Plenty. What must MLB do? Plenty.
Frantz is known in our circles as the "father of replay." Instant replay did not exist in 1997. When I first joined the NFL in 1998 as a supervisor of officials, all the discussions centered on bringing back replay. There were the natural concerns that included extending length and changing the pace of games, tradition and eliminating the "human element." But, ultimately, the integrity of the game prevailed and replay returned. The NFL wanted the game to be determined, as much as possible, by the players and coaches and not the officials.
With replay's return, a mistake like Frantz's would not happen again. After the 2008 season, the league looked at Hochuli's error to see if it could amend the rules to keep that from happening again. The NFL added the quarterback pass/fumble play to the replay rule to make sure that mistake could be corrected if it happens again.
It is time for MLB to act swiftly this coming offseason and protect the likes of Jim Joyce, Armando Galarraga, Don Denkinger and the St. Louis Cardinals. MLB needs to expand replay and revamp the system.
While I agree with Bud Selig's decision not to overturn the call, I do question some of his reasons for resisting expansion of the system. The pace and length of games are legitimate concerns and need to be addressed. Tradition, on the other hand, is overrated. Fans used to wear coats and ties to games. That is not exactly the case now. The modern-day player is quite different from players in other eras. Technology has become a part of everyday life.
Here is my proposed solution: Go to five-man umpiring crews and expand the system. You would have the four traditional umpires on the field, and the fifth would monitor the game from a replay booth. The umpires would rotate each day as they do now, so each umpire would be in the replay booth every fifth game. Let him swiftly correct those calls that are deemed correctable without the on-field umpires having to leave the field to view a monitor. It would be quick and effective.
MLB, with input from the umpires, needs to decide what plays can be corrected. Everyone must realize you can't correct everything — which is the case in the NFL. Include the plays that can be corrected based on facts and not purely judgment. Ball-and-strike decisions must never be included in the system.
Allow the umpire in the replay booth to use common sense to determine during a game which errors are significant enough to warrant involvement. Keep out useless managers' challenges. Let the managers manage, the players play and the umpires umpire. It is not easy to come up with a perfect system, but it can be done with input from a lot of groups.
Protect Joyce and Denkinger, just as the NFL did with Frantz and Hochuli, and give Galarraga and the Cardinals their due by preventing these mistakes from happening again. Give the umpiring crew its own system and all the available tools to do its job. Come to terms with reality. Technology has become a part of sports, and the integrity of the game is at stake.