June 2, 2010, with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning Armando Galarraga steps on first base, in what everyone in Comerica Park believed to be the last out of his no hitter, a feat rarely accomplished in Major League Baseball. However, to everyone’s surprise veteran umpire Jim Joyce calls the hustling runner safe rather than out. TV monitors replay the image thousands of times and it is blatantly clear that the runner was out and that Galarraga was robbed of his no hitter. Later, Jim Joyce is seen in tears saying, “I just cost that kid a perfect game,” Joyce said. “I thought he beat the throw. I was convinced he beat the throw, until I saw the replay.”
This play helped spark one of the biggest debates in Major League Baseball of the modern era. Whether or not the MLB should turn to the assistance of instant replay to help umpires get the call right. Replay had been successfully incorporated into major sports leagues like the NHL, the NBA, and the NFL, yet the MLB refused to even deal with the topic until this time. This debate lasted about two years and ended up with replay being used, sparingly, in the 2014 MLB season. The debate was between the proponents and opponents of replay and while the proponents eventually got their wish, I would like to focus on the opponents of instant replay. They interest me because the argument they presented seems to me to be an argument that would be supported in theory by Edmund Burke and others classical conservatives.
The debate seemed to be the Old Guard vs the New Guard, with the old guard, baseball purists, supporting the prohibition of instant replay in Baseball, and the New Guard proposing the use of technology to get every call 100% right. The opponents used a two prong argument:
The first argument they presented was that the human error element was part of the game. The game had always been played with the risk of human error having a significant impact, it was played that way in the Mid 1800s, it was played that way in the times of Babe Ruth, and it was played that way in the slugger filled years of the 1990s. They argued, part of what makes baseball, “America’s Pasetime” (another blog post in itself) is its long and storied tradition, and why change what has worked for over hundreds of years because of only a couple of conterversial plays. In addition, they also said that a missed call is not the end of the world. In reality the call happens the game is lost and the players come out the next day and play. For example, in response to a blown call in the 1985 World Series, Major League Baseball Commissioner, Bud Selig said “The sun came up the next day. The game didn’t collapse. The Republic survived.” This argument is very similar to an argument Edmund Burke would have constructed. The idea of living in tradition is both something that Burke and opponents of replay state as very important. In addition his idea that we should live off of tradition would be something that baseball purist would also agree with.
The second argument purists used to further their point that instant replay should be non-exsisten in baseball was that, baseball has too many moving parts to implement replay effectively. They argue that there is no way to tell how many bases to give a runner if specific calls are made (i.e. home run call is reversed). When the purist realized that instant replay was inevitable, they fought to keep it limited and that resulted in the current system today in which, teams can only challenge specific calls at one time per game and at no time past the seventh inning. This can be seen as another argument that has been formulated by Burke as Burke says in his letter to the french revolutionaries that change is best made slowly and incrementally, which is exactly what the purists seem to be trying to do.
In summary, many of the arguments that the opponents of instant replay make are synonymous with what Burke and other classical conservatives would say. It seems as if they both do not agree with and criticize those who think that there are ways to make things(baseball) better than they already are. I think both baseball purists and classical conservatives would agree with the old saying, “If it ain’t broke then don’t fix it.”