You're Outta Here!
Armando Galarraga's near-perfect game raises the question: Are umpires necessary?
To hear Josh Levin, Stefan Fatsis, and Mike Pesca discuss baseball's recent spate of perfect games on Slate's sports podcast, "Hang Up and Listen," click the arrow on the audio player below and fast-forward to the 25:35 mark:
The ump's role as baseball's on-field dictator dates to the pre-television era, an age when the guy standing beside the first baseman had the best claim to knowing what just happened on the field. Today, with the benefit of HD freeze-framing, we can all see what happened in the ninth inning in Detroit. If it's objective truth we're after, why should the one guy who isn't watching in slo-mo have any say at all, much less the last word?
Rather than fact-check Jim Joyce with television screens, why can't Major League Baseball use screens as a first line of defense? Forget giving baseball managers challenge flags—take a couple of umps off the diamond and put them in a booth with a bunch of high-def monitors. On every close call, the upstairs umps could tell the downstairs umps whether the runner was out or safe. Sure, that system isn't perfect—replays, after all, aren't always conclusive—but it's preferable to any scheme in which acquiring the right answer is the backup plan. Besides, perfection isn't the standard here. What we need is a system that makes the correct calls when we know what the correct calls are—a system, that is, that knows a perfect game when it sees one.