Improved Technology Means Baseball Faces Increasing Pressure to Install Instant Replay System

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Improved Technology Means Baseball Faces Increasing Pressure to Install Instant Replay System Editor’s Note: NESN.com Red Sox reporter Tony Lee will examine one hot-button baseball topic each day in December. On Sunday, he explained why Albert Pujols is baseball’s best clutch hitter.

Within minutes of umpire Jim Joyce’s blown call in the Armando Galarraga near-perfect game last year, pictures flooded the internet showing Galarraga’s foot clearly planted on the bag, the ball in his glove and the runner clearly still chugging up the line.

Someone in their living room in Alabama could hit a few buttons on their cell phone and see just how incorrect Joyce was in Detroit just moments earlier. Simply put, it’s so easy these days to recognize a bad call, and with that recognition comes a never-ending stream of debate, with the central question always being, should replay be expanded in baseball?

As painful as it was to see Galarraga come up short because of Joyce’s admitted mistake, the game was relatively meaningless, aside from the pitcher’s chance to make history. If and when those sorts of missed calls wind up affecting a game in a crucial contest, the call will go out even stronger for more ways to review plays.

Oh wait, they already have. It was just a handful of months before Joyce’s gaffe that the Minnesota Twins were hurt by a poor call in their American League Division Series loss to the New York Yankees. It probably didn’t matter much. The Twins always lose to the Yankees. But when mistakes are so glaring and the stakes so high, it begs for something else. Thirteen years earlier, also in the Bronx, we had the Jeffrey Maier incident, one of the catalysts for the eventual inclusion of replay review for “boundary” calls. Don Denkinger memorably blew a call at first base in the 1985 World Series, helping the Kansas City Royals upset the St. Louis Cardinals.

Traditionalists will say that human error is part of the game and that the game survived for a century before anyone uttered the words “after further review.” That’s a weak argument. Had there been replays from four different angles for that still-contested Jackie Robinson steal of home in the 1955 World Series, the one that saw Yogi Berra flip his lid, then maybe we would know if Berra is right when he insists that Robinson was out. Wouldn’t you want to know the truth?

Of course, instant replay should not necessarily be used for every play under the sun. And the methods for expanding represent an interesting debate (Red Sox manager Terry Francona has loosely backed an initiative to install a fifth umpire in a booth for quick reviews from up above, rather than the current exodus from the field of all four umpires). The Phil Cuzzi mistake in the Twins-Yankees affair is exhibit A for some sort of change. As long as technology allows us to catch the Cuzzis and Joyces of the world in the act, and a guy on his couch in Alabama, or wherever, can instantly see how wrong it is, there will be an even greater call for change.

Should replay be expanded in baseball? Leave your comments below.

On deck: Is Adrian Gonzalez a better fit for the Red Sox than Mark Teixeira would have been?

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