By opting not to reverse the blown call that cost Detroit Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga a perfect game, baseball commissioner Bud Selig made a huge mistake ... huge. He could have made an umpire's life much easier than it will be, given a deserving pitcher a once-in-a-lifetime accomplishment he had rightly earned, done the right thing and helped usher baseball into the 21st century.
Selig should have jumped on this by implementing a testing process for the remainder of 2010. Each manager would be allowed one challenge per game, whether it be on a safe/out call, a fair/foul call, a home run call and maybe a few other situations as well. The umpires? They have the right to challenge anything they want. Wednesday night, Jim Joyce would have used this, of that I have zero doubt.
Instead, Selig demonstrated why he has failed to garner the appreciation he has deserved on a few occasions by being such a "protector" of the game. Instead, he was harmful.
Baseball needs some semblance of replay, everyone in the game acknowledges that. Why not move right now, when the iron is as hot as it ever can be? Instead, Selig has opted to "examine our umpiring system" before making any decisions on instant replay.
The umpires themselves have said they'd embrace it if it's done right. Arrange a conference call with them and the union heads, then move right now on a trial version with the intention that you will reconvene at season's end and elicit responses from the test from all sides to compile a replay system that ensures calls are made right.
I agree there is validity to the "human error" factor being part of the game, and it always will be as long as there is an umpire behind home plate calling balls and strikes. We can all agree (though as a pitcher I'd love to see the rulebook zone enforced electronically) those "mistakes" are part of the game. Missing calls on the bases, calling foul balls fair, fair balls foul, home runs doubles and outs hits, those are not OK. Those can be addressed and you can get closer and closer to the point in which umpires do not decide the outcome of games as often as they do now.
Think about it. What if in today's world an umpire blows that call and costs a team a World Series? Riots? Likely. Death threats? For sure. Now what if someone loses their live in a riot due to something this stupid.
It was just the wrong decision, and I refuse to admit any argument made in the past 24 hours has the legs to stand up against reversing this call.
It's an out, he gets a perfect game and everyone, without exception, is happy.
This is not a decision you move on lightly, we all understand that. You're not opening a dangerous can of worms, you're still the commissioner. Here you have an umpire doing the absolute right thing, the players and the team responding in a manner that should and has made baseball very proud. The only person, it appears, is making the absolute wrong decision right now is the man in charge. But you make this change, acknowledging at the outset you will not go back and revisit anyone's gripes, but recognizing that in the 100-plus years before Wednesday night, nothing like this had ever happened.
When I say nothing like this I mean the event, the reactions, and most of all the massive amount of media coverage on professional sites and social networking now present in every sporting venue on the planet.
The resulting good will is a rare opportunity for baseball to make its fans happy across the board, and baseball has had so few chances to do that in the past 20 years. Why not jump on it while you can?
As a footnote, I agree with Rob Neyer. In slow motion that was a no brainer, an easy call. At game speed? Not so much. It wasn't as bang-bang as some other calls but it wasn't the easy call people think it is. The other part is that I was told by an umpire a long time ago that bang-bang calls at first base are called (by most umpires) and taught to be called on the sound. There is a distinct difference between the sound of a ball being caught and a foot hitting the bag. I don't know if all umpires do it, but I was told by some that is how they are taught.
I only mention that because during my career I was wrong and they were right about 99 percent of the time on calls at first.
Oh, and one more thing. In the 2007 season I had a call at first base reversed. I covered the bag and the umpire called the runner safe. I argued and told him there was no way, that the runner had stepped on my foot. He allowed for a conference, and reversed the call. So it does happen.
Curt Schilling, who pitched for the Red Sox from 2004-08, is a three-time World Series champion, six-time MLB All-Star and founded 38 Studios. Curt and his wife, Shonda, have raised money to fight ALS (Lou Gehrig's Disease) through Curt's Pitch for ALS, as well as encouraged awareness for sun protection through the SHADE Foundation. They recently announced their support for the Asperger's Association of New England after their third child was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome.