Everybody makes mistakes, but not many New York Yankees fans are willing to forgive first-base umpire Jerry Meals for his brutally botched call that ended Saturday’s dramatic contest between the Yanks and the Baltimore Orioles. The game was broadcast on national television, and both Yankees and Orioles fans knew the call was wrong.
Blown calls are difficult to forget, especially when they occur during critical moments in important games. Saturday’s game was a big one in the battle between New York and Baltimore for the American League East Championship.
The Yankees were staging a ninth inning comeback from a one-run deficit when first baseman Mark Teixeira came up to bat. With runners on first and third, Teixeira hit a ground ball to second base and sprinted toward first. To protect his injured calf, Teixeira dove headfirst into the bag. He reached the base more than a second before the first baseman caught the ball, but to his outrage, Meals called him out, ending the game with a double play for the Orioles.
In his postgame interview, Teixeira said, “It wasn’t even that close, that’s what’s disappointing. We’re out here battling, we’re scratching and clawing for every win, and it wasn’t close.”
In this tight pennant race, such a flagrantly wrong call is unacceptable. Had Teixeira been called safe, right fielder Chris Dickerson would have scored the game-tying run and the Yankees could have gone on to take the lead. The unfortunate reality of umpiring is that humans are imperfect — people will commit errors, no matter how much training they receive.
Major League Baseball should introduce replays and electronic review to account for human mistakes and to keep the game fair. Incorrect calls have changed the results of entire tournaments. For example, in the 2010 FIFA World Cup, referee Koman Coulibaly disallowed a goal by American midfielder Maurice Edu in the 86th minute of the match between the United States and Slovenia. The call was made because a foul was committed in the box, however, electronic reviews showed no evidence of a foul made by any player. Because of the referee’s decision, the game ended as a draw instead of a historic American win.
Some critics of electronic review claim technology will extend sporting events that already seem too long. On the contrary, the technology for sports replay is extremely efficient. Umpires and referees would take no longer than a few minutes to view the replay and determine exactly what happened. In fact, electronic review could actually reduce the length of games because it will eliminate the squabbling that occurs between officials who saw different versions of the same play.
Other naysayers added that technology would end tradition in sports and that it strips sports of the beauty they had when they were created. But fairness is a key tenet of sports. Electronic review helps account for human error and enables officials to justly reward competitors. As technology advances and becomes ever more accurate, baseball should not be left in the dust.
A version of this article appeared in the Sept. 11 print edition. Karthik Ramakrishnan is a contributing writer. Email him at [email protected]