Thursday, June 3, 2010

Perfectly Logical

Empathy is not exactly TigerBlog's best thing. Still, he couldn't help but feel for Detroit Tiger pitcher Armando Galarraga after what happened last night.

By now, everyone knows the story. Galarraga set down the first 26 Cleveland Indians he faced last night and was one out from a perfect game. Jason Donald hit a ground ball between first and second that Miguel Cabrera fielded and tossed to Galarraga, who was covering first. Though Donald was clearly out by a full step, umpire Jim Joyce called him safe.

Of course, the video confirms that Donald was out and that Galarraga should have had a perfect game. Instead, Galaragga had to settle for a one-hit shutout; more importantly, it's unlikely that he will approach a perfect game again in his career.

As an aside, did you notice how well Galaragga seemed to take it? He gave Joyce a quick smile of disbelief and then went back to pitch.

TigerBlog is a staunch opponent of the use of instant replay in games, not because of the ability of replay to show mistakes by officials but because of how it is applied. If anything has ever confirmed this for TB, it's what happened last night.

Replay in sports should correct egregious mistakes like the one last night, not be used to go frame-by-frame to try to find some possible reason to change a call and in the process destroy the flow of a game as in football or give the refs a chance to be the center of attention as in basketball.

Still, in this case, it's obvious what Major League Baseball should do, for everyone's sake. Joyce, for instance, immediately said that he blew the call after watching it on instant replay. Does MLB really want Joyce, by all accounts a fine umpire, to be haunted by this?

No, what Major League Baseball should do is say that Donald was out, the next at-bat never happened and Galarraga has a perfect game. After all, that's exactly what happened.

If sports can ever figure out a way to have replay correct such situations, then TB would be all for it.

The recent NCAA men's lacrosse tournament experimented with instant replay in a pretty good way. Each Division I game, and the DII and DIII finals, had a monitor at midfield, and there would be an automatic review of any goal scored in the final two seconds of a quarter.

TB saw in person six of the 16 DI games and the DII and DIII championship games, and in those eight games, which involved 32 quarters, only once was replay used. That was at halftime of the DII game, at which Matt Chadderdon of Le Moyne rocketed a no-look shot into the goal.

From watching it in person, it appeared that the goal did not beat the horn. In watching it on replay, it clearly didn't. End of discussion.

There was no need to stop the game in mid-quarter to review something that ultimately wouldn't impact the outcome anyway, another of TB's replay peeves. Does a first down in the second quarter really make the difference in a game? No, it doesn't.

Maybe the lacrosse model is a good one. Only review scoring plays at the very end of a quarter.

One event that is begging for trouble is the World Cup, which has no use of replay. TB would use replay on that level on every single goal scored in order to make sure nobody gets robbed when they were clearly offsides or something similar or, as was the case in qualifying, that a handball doesn't vault France in ahead of Ireland.

The call in the Tigers' game last night got TB thinking about any similar situations for another group of Tigers, the Princeton Tigers. Have there been any simply awful calls that TB could think of from Princeton events?

In fairness to the officials who call games here, TB could think of very few. Oh, there was the night at Temple when Will Venable's drive as time expired was clearly goaltended, and the non-whistle left the Tigers on the wrong end of a two-point game instead of headed to overtime.

And TB can think of some nights when the officiating has been inconsistent or flat-out bad. Still, he can't think of too many times when the refs have made one specific call that has completely impacted the outcome.

Back when TB was at the newspaper, he covered a Trenton State-Stockton State New Jersey Athletic Conference men's basketball playoff game. TSC needed the game to get into the NCAA tournament, as TB recalls, or perhaps it was the last game of the regular season and TSC needed it to get into the NJAC tournament.

Either way, a guy named Charles Dudley hit a jump shot seemingly as time expired to give TSC a one-point lead, a shot that resulted in a massive celebration as Dudley was mobbed on the court by his teammates.

Except for one problem. The refs ruled that Stockton had called timeout and put some fraction of a second back on the clock (this was before the clock stopped on a made basket in the final minute; TB swears there was no time on the clock when Dudley's shot went in anyway). Then they called every TSC player who left the bench and came onto the court to celebrate for a technical foul. The result was chaos and a Stockton win.

Afterwards, TSC coach Donnie Marsh - as nice a guy as TB has ever met - said that he disagreed with the call but that you can't put yourself in position to let the refs impact the outcome of a game.

After the DII men's lacrosse final, TB walked to the parking lot with the ref who had made the split-second call of no-goal at the end of the first half. TB complimented him on making the right call, and he laughed and said something along the lines of "we usually do."

He's right. And when they don't, replay can be used to correct the mistake. It's just that it in its current application, replay use in sports is a disaster.

A good start in the right direction would be giving Galarraga his perfect game. After all, he earned it.


Anonymous said...

I find it hard to believe that the other three umpires on that crew last night weren't watching the play at first base ... especially given that it was about to be the final out of a perfect game.

In football, basketball and even in hockey (as witnessed in last night’s Stanley Cup Finals game), you see officiating crews get together all the time to correct an egregious missed call that has a definitive answer (i.e. which team touched it last before it went out of bounds, did the player’s feet come down in bounds, did the puck touch the goalie on an icing call, etc.). Why can’t baseball umpires initiate a mini-conference like that, have one of the other umps speak up and get the call right and move on (before the manager comes out and blows a gasket at the missed call)?

It’s a solution that doesn’t call for instant replay … just a little bit of common sense. But, I guess that is too much to ask from Major League Baseball.

kevin said...

If you're worried about interrupting the flow of games, I would think you would be in favor of instituting replay in baseball, which doesn't have any real flow. Every questionable call is argued by the players/managers for a couple of minutes anyways, so why not take that time to get the call right?

But making up a rule that would allow baseball to correct last night's mistake sets a terrible precedent. Why not go back and retroactively review other important blown calls, then?

Anonymous said...

TB, that's easy!

1989. Alonzo Mourning fouling Kit Mueller in the last shot! Instant replay would have sent him to the foul line for 2 shots and the greatest upset in NCAA Tourney history.

How could you forget that? :)