Thursday, June 3, 2010

On Selig and Griffey Jr.

    By Ross Newhan and David Newhan

    Father and son agree on this:

    Whether Commissioner Bud Selig should have used his "best interest powers" to overrule Jim Joyce's blown call, costing Detroit's Armando Galarrraga a perfect game Wednesday night, is secondary to his and baseball's refusal to extend the use of replay beyond borderline home runs.

    Selig and people close to him say that may now change, given Joyce's admitted mistake on the 27th and potential final out of Galarraga's historic effort against the Cleveland Indians and the succession of umpiring mistakes that marred last fall's postseason games, and it is about time.

    In an era of expanded and improving technology, of real time and super slow mo replays, there is no excuse for baseball not to take advantage.

    The human element will still be there, but why shouldn't baseball use all of the tools at it's disposal to make sure proper calls are made?

    Why not avoid the controversy that is engulfing Joyce, one of baseball's best and most respected umpires, and the potential final out of Wednesday's game whenever possible?

   Use the NFL system. Put an official behind a TV screen in the press box. The umpires don't have to leave the field. Give each manager two challenges a game. Everything can be challenged except balls and strikes. If the replay is still inconclusive, so be it. The call on the field stands.

   If 20 minutes is added to each game, aren't the owners going to love that potential commercial time to reap more profits?

   Also, don't replays bring fans to the edge of their seats in the NFL while awaiting a decision?

   Doesn't it actually add to the emotions?

   Galarraga, Joyce and everyone involved Wednesday night have handled themselves with class. Joyce will live with his decision forever, as Don Denkinger has since Game 6 of the 1985 World Series when his wrong call ignited a Kansas City rally that probably cost the St. Louis Cardinals a world title.

    Selig could have removed the albatross from Joyce's shoulders by reversing the call. It would have been the easy and popular thing to do, but it also would set a dangerous precedent. The Commissioner may be the commander in chief the same way the President is, but he best apply his powers, not by turning over umpire decisions, but by seeing that baseball uses the best available technology to make sure decisions are rendered properly and by seeing that the most highly rated umpires work the most important games of October--and now a shivering November.

    He got halfway there during recent collective bargaining negotiations with the umpires union that led to a new five year agreement. The commissioner's office can now assign the best umpires to work the World Series in consecutive years, rescinding a rule which had prevented umpires from working two World Series in a row. However, umpires can still work two postseason series in a row, whether they have earned that responsbility on merit or not.

   "It's a double edged sword," said a baseball lawyer familiar with the negotiations. "You have to give all umpires a chance to work the postseason or they never gain the experience needed for those games and you never develop a pool of umpires big enough to assign to all those series."

     Perhaps that is true. But they would be benefited, at least, by giving them the backup support of wider use of replays.


   The retirement of Ken Griffey Jr. creates something of an unfinished feeling.

   Make no mistake, he will be elected to the Hall of Fame on the first ballot, he saved baseball in the Pacific Northwest and his sweet swing and series of electric catches will remain clear in the camera of the mind.

   In addition, en route to 630 home runs, including six seasons of 40 or more and back to back season of 56 in 1997 and '98, he was never tainted by suggestion or inuendo of steroid use.

   It's just that his career was hampered by a series of injuries, particularly in 2001 through 2004. If he had hit just 30 home runs in each of those seasons he would have finished with 750, and by averaging a few more in those years, he would have produced more than the 762 that is the record belonging to the chemically aided Barry Bonds.

    And that would have been even sweeter than his swing.

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