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After Close Call in ALCS, MLB Should Make Plans To Allow Instant Replay

By Yong-yi Zhu

By now, I’m sure you’ve all heard about it. Three strikes don’t necessarily constitute an out in Major League Baseball, and it can even lead to the game-winning run. A.J. Pierzynski struck out to end the ninth in game two of the American League Championship Series last Wednesday night. Or did he?

The umpire, Doug Eddings, motioned for a third strike, but did not call the batter out. Pierzynski ran down to first base as the Angels moseyed off the field, and was declared safe at first base. The rest is history. The pinch runner stole second and was driven home on a double to left field.

Thus the debating began. Was the ball a caught third strike? What did the umpire signal to Josh Paul, the catcher? How convinced was each of the umpires of the call that was made? Everything about that sequence seemed terribly muddled.

One thing was clear: it would not have killed Josh Paul to tag Pierzynski. Like the saying goes, it’s always better to be safe than sorry, and boy were the Angels sorry last week, even though it was only partially their fault. After all, we’re still not sure if the ball was caught or not. Had the umpires been given a chance to review the call, there is a possibility they would have reversed their ruling.

Can you imagine the controversy in football had the “Tuck Rule” game not been reviewed? Everyone thought Brady should have been called for fumbling the ball on that last drive to tie the game up. Nobody would have believed what had happened to be the right call if there had not been instant replay.

Think also about the agony from Buffalo fans if “Homerun Throwback” had not received a second look. The Music City Miracle, where Frank Wycheck threw the ball across the field to Andre Dyson for a touchdown in the waning seconds of the AFC Wild Card game in 1999 could have been called either way. But the refs got it right the first time, and the extra justification provided by the replays helped to cement the call.

What if Patrick Sparks’ three-pointer in this year’s NCAA men’s basketball tournament had been called wrong? Kentucky was making a comeback against Michigan State, and at the last second, Sparks put up a shot that looked as though it might have been either a three or a two-pointer. A three would have tied the game, a two would have sent Kentucky home. Because the initial call was a three, and there was no conclusive evidence to shift the decision the other way, Kentucky and MSU played extra basketball. Sure, KU eventually lost the game anyway, but isn’t it that much more satisfying to know that the officials really got the call right?

Because of replays, we can go back, ensure the call was accurate, and continue the game. There is a time to stick to tradition, but there is also a time to recognize that technology can truly benefit the world of sports. With so many camera angles in each game, officials can make sure their decision was right. Football and basketball have already adopted some sort of replay technology and system that allow them to judge critical plays. Perhaps baseball should implement a similar system.

A system that mirrors the NFL system can work effectively. Each manager can challenge any call. If the play is upheld by officials after further review, the manager’s team would lose an out; if the play is overturned, the team would take the result of the play. This might change the dynamics of baseball a bit, but it would really force managers to think twice about challenging a play, while at the same time giving them the option to dispute a call.

Sure, this may sound crazy, but baseball is going through a series of major changes. If we can fix the steroids problem, we might as well fix the bad call problem along with it. The NFL and NBA have adapted, why shouldn’t MLB?