Thursday, June 03, 2010


Tough break. Personally, I feel worst for the umpire, Jim Joyce, who admitted after the game that he'd blown the call and felt horrible about it. We bitch about blind refs all the time, but of course they do an incredibly difficult job (interpreting split-second events in real time) and make dozens of calls per game. They're going to botch one on occasion. What can you do?

What can you do, indeed. ESPN has technology to show you instantly where a ball was vis-a-vis the strike zone when it crossed a plate and where the runner was when the first baseman caught the ball. Computers don't make mistakes. If the technology is there to take the mistakes out of refereeing, why not use it?

Having humans there to "eyeball" it is what you do when you lack the precision of modern technology. Umpires are for little league at the local park, not for the Majors. If the fans really would prefer to leave the authority with an umpire making their best guess in close calls, that's fine I guess, but you can't complain when they blow one.

On the other hand, Matt Hinton notes that even the Galarraga incident pales in comparison to the bizarro, "Kafkaesque" call that robbed Oklahoma of victory in the Holiday Bowl several years ago, which has to be the worst call ever made in the history of sports:

And that call was deemed to have been confirmed by video evidence!

Of course, this is not to say that refs + instant replay isn't significantly less error-prone than just refs. Instant replay is going to catch some of the refs' mistakes, and thus it's certainly worth implementing. Leagues that continue to refuse to do so are asking for trouble.

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