Baseball Expands Instant Replay To Make Sure “The Final Call is the Correct One”

August 15th, 2013

Remember Armando Galarraga? Due to an umpires blow call, he lost a perfect game. I’ve written a number of posts about this snafu, through a jurisprudential lens of what it means for a call to be final. All focus on the idea of finality. That unlike the law, there is no appeal beyond those on the field. Baseball had introduced video replay for homerun/boundary calls, but those were still reviewed by the same umps who potentially blew the original call. And safe/out calls were beyond review. Baseball purists justified baseball’s resistance to replay, where most other sports have already adopted some form of replay, by harkening back to baseball’s history as a pure game. Or something like that. The Burkean in me only lets tradition go so far. Blown calls that affect outcomes of games are a weak reason to cling to custom.

Now, at long last, baseball is expanding its use of instant replay. Managers upset with calls can challenge them. Crews in New York, and not the umpires on the field, will review the footage of the call. Now, for the first time, the umpires will not sit in appeal of their own judgment (a terrible idea).

Under the new system, that same call could be challenged and overturned. The spontaneity of the moment — right or wrong — would be lost in favor of a more basic goal: that the final call is the correct one.

Isn’t that what we all want? The right call.

“We really tried to honor the legacy of the game and mostly recognize that we’ve got technology that’s improving quickly, and we had a good experience with the home run and boundary replays,” the former manager Tony La Russa, an adviser to Major League Baseball, said in a telephone interview on Thursday. La Russa added, “It makes the competition more like it’s supposed to be, that the team that plays best and executes best has the best chance to win.”

Now, they only need to replace the dugout phones with cell phones.

I suspect fewer managers will get ejected now. It’s really hard to kick dirty and bump chests with a faceless analyst in New York. I suppose Joe Girardi can hop on the 6, but that wouldn’t work too well.