Friday, June 4, 2010

The Call

                                This photo is now part of baseball lore

The technology of photography and video has progressed to the point that it demands to be part of the game of baseball. I was at a game in San Francisco last year when the first-base ump blew a call very similar to the horrible call made by umpire Jim Joyce on Wednesday night that robbed Detroit Tiger pitcher Armando Galarraga of a perfect game. The crowd in San Francisco, as was the case in Detroit, instantly knew a mistake had been made because TV monitors in the park showed the play over and over. Viewers at home saw the same thing, instantly. The only people without the benefit of replay were the umps.

Those opposed to some form of instant replay in baseball talk about spoiling the "integrity of the game," as if the rules of baseball were handed down to us mortals from some kind of divinity. We have romantic tendency to do this, often referring to the Baseball Gods and whatnot. Why are there three strikes and not four? Why is the distance between bases 90 feet and not 92 feet or 87 feet? Because the Baseball Gods gave us this game. Likewise, the priests who interpret the epistles of the Baseball Gods for us (I'm looking at you, Mike Francesa) say that mistakes are just part of the mystical fabric of the game. Blown calls, we are told, are a good thing, because we learn to live with them and move on in a spirit of sportsmanship.

On a more practical level, the integrity of baseball is certainly shattered when every fan at a ball park and every viewer at home can see a botched call immediately after it was made. The now-famous image above, attributed to Associated Press, shows Jim Joyce and the out that wasn't. It also shows how photography and stop-motion video have already become part of the game, at least for fans.

After seeing a picture today of Joyce wiping away tears as he was being presented with Thursday's lineup card by Armando Galarraga (photo below by Paul Sancya for Associated Press), I consulted the Baseball Gods, and I can tell you that they are completely ambivalent on the subject of instant replay. (Frankly, they are too busy dealing with the issue of Human Growth Hormone. ) "Hey, do what you have to do!" one of them told me. So I say, let's let the umpires have instant replay, so we won't have to see any more crying at home plate.

                                    There should be no crying in baseball.

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