What commish could do (and what he shouldn't)

June, 3, 2010
6/03/10
12:09
PM ET
Keith Olbermann has been all over this thing, arguing almost immediately that Jim Joyce should have done last night what Frank Pulli did almost exactly 11 years ago: ignore procedure and look at the replay ...
More over, that's exactly what baseball should do right now. The Commissioner should appoint an emergency committee to examine the expansion of replay on a formalized basis with set rules. And in the interim, in fairness to Armando Galarraga, in fairness to Jason Donald, in fairness to the fans, and especially in fairness to Jim Joyce, he ought to do a little ad hoc of his own: overrule Joyce's safe call and give Galarraga what he in fact accomplished, and only the arrogance of authority is denying him - the perfect game he pitched tonight in Detroit, the majors' third this season, second in five days, and fourth in the 135 days of play dating back to Mark Buehrle's job last season.

This is not the time to stick to the rules. The rules failed the sport tonight.

If Olbermann is right -- and I'm not at all sure that he is -- he's only half-right.

Maybe Selig should appoint an emergency committee (or, even better, an emergency BLUE RIBBON committee) to figure out the future of video review, particularly since we all know that the use of video review will be expanded at some point; it's just a matter of when and how. What's more, we should assume that somebody in Selig's office has already been thinking about this for some time. I'd be happy to bet that there is, right now, a practical proposal written on a piece of paper in someone's desk.

In the interim, though? The only way overruling Joyce works is if there's a rule in the books that can reasonably be applied retroactively. You might not like it, but if Selig announces a rule next Monday afternoon and applies it retroactively to the 2nd of June, he'll at least have the weight of authority on his side.*

* Granted, even this would open up a huge tub of smelly earthworms. Wednesday night, a few hours after Jim Joyce took the stage, the Twins lost in the 10th inning to the Mariners on a play that might well have been overturned with the benefit of video review. And how many more game-changing plays might be reversed, with video review, between now and next Monday afternoon?

But an "interim" decision would set a terrible precedent, because this theoretical "interim" might last weeks or months or years. Does the commissioner really want to be in the position of overruling umpires every time an umpire blows a call that might have changed the result of a game? Or simply changed a player's statistics? (Because that's all that happened Wednesday night in Detroit: a player's statistics were very slightly affected.)

If I were the commissioner, I don't believe that I would overrule Jim Joyce, turning Jason Donald's single into an out and pretending that Trevor Crowe never actually batted. I don't believe the cost of that decision -- the uncertainty that would suddenly be introduced into every game played between today and the eventual expansion of video review -- would justify the benefits (a line in the record books for Galarraga and thousands of happy Tigers fans). But if I were to overrule a judgment call on the field, I would do it only in the context of a broad policy change designed to move the game forward rather than respond to the heat of a fleeting moment.

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