Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Silver Lining

Tonight, a pitcher lost a perfect game because of a bad call by an umpire. The names do not matter. This was bound to happen sooner or later and the humans involved were happenstance. Actually, my point is to dehumanize this event. I don't care about the emotions involved, the mea culpas, nor the apologies. I just care that it happened. Most of the time blown calls happen during the course of a game, and fall under the "fallacy of the predetermined outcome" when talking about what may ensue. In this case, you know exactly what the outcome would have been if the umpire had properly applied the rules of the game.

The funny part is that it had no bearing on the actual outcome of the game in terms of a win or loss. Worse than that, and only in baseball is this true, it infringed on the history of the game. And while it may be remembered for a long time as the "lost perfect game", it will not have its proper place in the record books. I do hope it will someday be in a book about baseball history as a tipping point of sorts. Of course, I am talking about a huge expansion in the use of instant replay and the striving of getting all calls right.

The evolution of baseball includes the expanded use of instant replay. A big step has already happened, getting home run calls correct by using the technology that is at MLBs disposal. This same technology could have been used so that tonight's unfortunate incident could have been avoided and instead been a celebration of one of baseballs rarest feats.

Rule 6.05(j) - [A batter is out when:] "After a third strike or after he hits a fair ball, he or first base is tagged before he touches first base."

There is no gray area to this rule. Either first base is tagged before the runner touches the base and he's out, or the runner touches the base before first base is touched and he is safe. Within one minute of this blown call, the technology was there to prove, without a doubt, that this rule was not properly enforced.

The technology is there and ready. Use it. If you can see that a rule was not followed within the time it takes for the next batter to get into the batter's box, it should be overruled. If, within that time period, they don't have enough evidence to overturn the ruling, then move on and call it inconclusive. If the call is egregious enough for the manager to come out and argue, then you have even more time to look at the evidence.

I don't need to get into how communication between overseers and umpires should be handled because it doesn't matter, that technology is already available as well. If the checking is done within the confines of the dead time between pitches, no time will be added to the game.

Oh, the "human element"? There were 3 humans that mattered on this play: the pitcher, the first baseman and the batter/runner. The only other element in play here was non-human, and it's called the Official Rule Book of Major League Baseball.