Baseball Needs Replay Flags

I hate to say. I don’t want to say it. But I think baseball might need to start using the replay more widely.

Photo: NBC Sports

Baseball has always been and forever will be a great game with human error, and I don’t think I’ll EVER say that replays should be used anywhere near the calling of balls and strikes, but after last night’s blown call, I can certainly get behind some use of the replay.

Here’s what I’m thinking: Each coach gets a replay flag, similar to the replay flag in football. This flag can be used once during the game to challenge a call made on the field (trapped catch, tag on the slide, safe/out at first, etc). The manager must throw the flag (or however this would be done – probably when he runs out on the field to complain about the bad call) before the next pitch is thrown. In extra inning games, the coach will get one flag for extra innings, regardless of the number of innings. The flag cannot be used to argue balls and strikes.

Had Jim Leland had a replay flag last night, Armando Galarraga would have a perfect game and umpire Jim Joyce wouldn’t have to live with his terrible mistake (I mean, this may have been the worst call ever. 2 outs left in a perfect game?! What was he thinking calling him safe ANYWAY?! In a situation like that, give the pitcher the benefit of the doubt. But I digress) for the rest of his life. It would be a win-win.

I normally defend the human error in baseball – it’s what makes the game perfect to me. I like that each ump has his own zone and that accurate pitchers are sometimes given an inch off the plate. I think blown calls are part of the game and probably should be. I mean, it’s just a game, right? And we’re all human – we make mistakes. Umpires can’t be perfect every call (though they’re damn near nowadays). But a badly blown call to ruin a perfect game on the last out leads me to think that maybe, in this age of high-definition video and replays galore, something can, and should, be done.

I will say this about the whole situation, though, Galarraga and Joyce have both handled it with class, and in an era of seemingly lawless athletes, it’s nice to see someone take the high road. But that high road traveler should have a perfect game on his résumé…


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6 Comments on “Baseball Needs Replay Flags”

  1. Jared Says:

    Couldn’t they just have a scorers change from a hit to an error? Something like EU (Umpire) rather than E1-9. He doesn’t get the perfect game but at least he gets a no hitter. In the end, this wouldn’t set a precedent for being able to retroactively change the outcome of the game, but would allow for somewhat proper historical stats (which baseball holds so dearly)

  2. In theory, yes, but the official scorer said he wouldn’t do it because no fielder made an error. And I’m not sure I really like any of these solutions, really. But I’m okay with a replay flag.

  3. Other Paul Says:

    The problem is I don’t think baseball lends itself to a flag system the way football does. I think (if they are going to expand it) they should give replay as a tool for the umpires. That way an umpire can call a conference, and the crew chief can then go and look at a replay in the clubhouse. I think that will help cut down on the time replay is used (because Selig still wants the games shorter) and that will keep the coaches from being in control of the replay system. The Managers will surely ask for it more often, but if the umpires control they can keeps it in check.

    Either way, it opens the door for more replay. That’s something I don’t like.

    Other Paul

    • I also don’t really like the idea of more replay in baseball (i’m terrified that we’ll switch to robotic umpires), and while this situation is terrible and makes me want to be able to reverse the call, maybe it’s just the way baseball IS.

      That being said, if a game that makes billions in revenue every year can have this glaring a flaw, I’d like it to be able to be perfect.

      To respond to your suggestions, umps already confer on things. I think that they tend to stick to their calls and may not use a replay system if available. Giving each coach a flag limits replays to once per game and ensures that they’ll only be used in extremely close or important situations.

      • Other Paul Says:

        The biggest argument for this is: if you gave the managers a flag (or 2) who’s to say it wouldn’t have been used by that point already?

      • Indeed. And if that’s the case, then perhaps the flag would have been used improperly. The hope with the flag is that managers use them very rarely and the impact they have on game length is minimal.

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