02 May 2012
See that picture on the right? That’s a screen cap of Todd Helton catching a throw from a teammate while two to three feet off the bag. The runner, Jerry Hairston, was apparently called out by umpire Tim Welke (image via FanGraphs.com).
Of course, Tigers fans aren’t strangers to blown calls. The memory of Jim Joyce’s blown call on what would have been the 27th and final out of Armando Galarraga’s 2010 perfect game won’t be easily wiped from the mind of any Detroiter*.
*A Google image search for ‘Armando Galarraga’ yields a handful of file photos and dozens upon dozens of pictures (from all angles) of Miguel Cabrera’s throw beating Cleveland’s Jason Donald by a full step.
In fairness to umpires, many safe/out plays that fans grumble about are so close that it would be impossible to get them all correct at game speed with the naked eye. But that doesn’t mean that baseball shouldn’t do something to correct these calls; both the grossly incorrect and the bang-bang varieties.
There’s no reason this should noticeably delay the game from its current speed of play. We already see managers bound out of the dugout on close plays to argue with umpires (hardly ever to any avail), an act that can take up to a couple of minutes. Those of us watching the Armando Galarraga perfect game on television knew the call was missed before manager Jim Leyland even crossed the infield because the replay had already been shown twice (from two different angles) on the broadcast. In a fifth-ump-in-the-booth** system, the call could have been corrected before the first swear word even left Leyland’s mouth.
**With an umpire in the booth, you probably wouldn’t even need four on the field. If the league didn’t want to pay 15 extra umpires every day, they could get away with three field umps (one behind the plate and two around the bases) with the fourth up in the booth, and probably still have more correct calls than we see now.
There would obviously still be some details to iron out, like how far exactly to take replay, but some expansion is needed and safe/out plays on the base paths would be an easy place to start. There’s no need to develop the ‘perfect’ system before implementing a better system. HD technology gives the cameras and incredibly clear view of the action. It’s a shame we’re instead relying on the eyes of aging men.
Matt Snyder is the editor of The Tigers Den. He can be reached on Twitter @snyder_matthew.