It's time once again to say those four words Bud Selig doesn't want to hear:
We need more replay.
Yeah, I know they're easy words to blurt out when I'm here, blurting, a half-hour after a debacle of a blown call cost Armando Galarraga a perfect game in Detroit on Wednesday night. But just for the record, I've blurted this before. Many times.
I don't want to expand the replay system to include every ball, every strike, every trap, every catch and, especially, every call at first base. I'm not that demented. In fact, I'm just like Bud in one respect:
I have no interest in going to a baseball game and not getting home 'til 3 a.m.
But I'm unlike Bud in another all-important respect:
I think it should be this sport's No. 1 priority to get The Big Call right if at all possible. And this just in:
Replay works. It may not work 100 percent of the time. But I've got news for all the people who are moaning and groaning right now: It has a lot better accuracy rate on calls like this than Jim Joyce achieved with his very own naked eye Wednesday night.
And here's another bulletin for you: The umpires are fine with more replay.
Not all kinds of replay. Not unlimited replay. But more replay is OK with them. I know because I've asked them.
You think Jim Joyce wants to spend the next 24, or 48, or 4 billion, hours of his life as the latest international symbol for umpiring incompetence?
You think he wants to have the replay of that screwed-up call surgically attached to his reputation for the rest of his umpiring career?
You don't think he'd have preferred to look at a replay, get this right and re-establish law, order, truth, justice and, above all, perfection? Of course he would.
If those were his options -- his real options -- I can't believe he, or any sane human, would choose to keep making these calls the same way they were made in Detroit on Wednesday.
It can all be addressed -- easily. And here's my proposal to address it:
We'd keep the home run replay system exactly the way it is now. We'd then expand it to include fair-or-foul plays all over the field -- not just for home runs. But now here comes the big change -- the change that would have fixed this mess, in all probability:
We would give each manager one challenge a night to use however he wants to use it -- except for ball/strike calls.
Plays on the bases. Traps and catches. Fan interference or not. Placing runners. I'd use replay for any of them, but only once. And that part would be the manager's call.
Now of course, under this system, it's possible that Jim Leyland would already have used up his one challenge for the night by the time The Big Call arrived with two outs in the ninth. But you know what? I doubt it.
I doubt it because I'm convinced that this manager, or any manager -- knowing he had one challenge to burn, and only one -- would almost never burn it on some questionable call in the first inning. He would save it.
He would save it until the late innings of a tight game. Wouldn't he? Why? Because if something like this happened with two outs in the ninth, he would shoot himself if he'd used up his challenge on a random caught-stealing two hours earlier.
And if each manager had one challenge a night to play with, and each manager did in fact save that challenge for when he really, really needed it, how many challenges would we have a night? Three? Six? Maybe 10 on a big night?
And they'd be spread among 15 games. So judging by how quick and easy it's turned out to be to look at those home run replays and get those calls right, how much extra time would we be adding to the average game? We'd be talking maybe four minutes, tops. Not four hours.
But if a really big call -- like this one, for instance -- took 10 minutes to get right, why would that be a catastrophe exactly? Explain it to me.
Please. Explain it. Explain how those 10 minutes would exact a worse toll on this sport than the embarrassment of what happened at Comerica Park. Go right ahead. Feel free to e-mail me (at firstname.lastname@example.org) in as much detail, and with as much passion, as you'd like. I'd love to hear your arguments.
All I know is that my argument -- and my system -- would have gotten this play right. Would have awarded Armando Galarraga the perfecto he'd just earned. Would have been a far more rewarding outcome than trying to sit here and defend the Human Element.
There isn't a single business in America -- not one -- that would turn its back on a piece of technology THAT IT ALREADY HAS IN PLACE because it prefers the (cough, cough) Human Element. Only baseball.
So isn't it time this sport burst into the 21st century? Isn't it time we recognized that doing things The Way We've Always Done Them is more overrated than the 38-second home run trot?
Of course it is. And we can fix it, with one snap of Bud Selig's fingers. I know Bud would have to agonize for months before he'd deliver that snap. But here's what I also know:
His agony will never, ever equal the agony Armando Galarraga will feel when he thinks about this night for the rest of his life.