Game-ending call shows replay at its best
Pirates get deserved victory after play at the plate was challenged and overturned
Instant replay had its finest hour Tuesday night in Pittsburgh. That's the bottom line from an evening in which a challenged call was overturned in the bottom of the ninth inning. It was all handled quickly and efficiently. That's how it's supposed to work. That's why baseball wanted it in the first place.
Here's the really amazing part of the deal, perhaps the surprising part. The process didn't detract from the emotion of the moment. A celebration delayed is still plenty sweet. In fact, it seemed to enhance it. How about that?
"Wanted to make it more exciting," Starling Marte said.
The Giants and Pirates were tied, 1-1, with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning at PNC Park when Marte slid into home plate. San Francisco catcher Buster Posey slapped a tag on him, and home-plate umpire Quinn Wolcott called Marte out.
Bucs manager Clint Hurdle challenged the call, which was as bang-bang as could be. It took a mere 74 seconds for it to be overturned by an umpire working at the headquarters of Major League Baseball Advanced Media in New York.
And with that, the celebration ensued. For now, whenever anyone questions the wisdom of instant replay, let them check out this single moment.
Not just the process, either. Sure, that's part of it. So far, baseball has reviewed 240 plays, and the average time for a decision is down to two minutes, one second. Calls were reviewed more quickly last week, which is a sign that things are headed in the right direction.
No surprise there. Replay is a huge, historic change, both in terms of the technology and the process. From the beginning, baseball officials said it wasn't going to be perfect on Day 1.
Rather, they would assess it day by day, tweaking it as needed. To focus on that part of replay is to miss the larger picture. This is about getting the call right. Nothing else matters. All the other stuff will get figured out.
So on Tuesday night, Pittsburgh -- a team off to a slow start, a team fighting its guts out -- got to celebrate a huge, emotional victory, the kind of victory that can ignite a club. The Pirates got this victory thanks to instant replay.
Here's what counts. Baseball has reviewed 240 plays. Sixty of them (25 percent) have been confirmed, 65 (27.1 percent) have stood and 112 (46.7 percent) were overturned. Three other plays were reviewed for record-keeping purposes.
Not all the replays have been as dramatic as the one that decided the Giants-Bucs game on Tuesday, but they've all been significant. Baseball implemented instant replay because it believed there was technology to move the game in the right direction, to do the right thing for teams and fans alike.
Every manager will tell you the same thing: There's no feeling quite as empty as leaving the ballpark feeling you just lost a game because of a blown call. So 112 times in the opening weeks of the season, the wrong call became the right call.
Those other 125 plays are important, too. If a player thought he'd gotten the wrong end of the deal, he deserved the chance to have the call looked at, to have it turned inside out and double checked.
That was a great moment for baseball Tuesday night in Pittsburgh, but it was a great moment for all the people who care about the game and for all those who just want the game decided by the players and managers.
This game was a signal that it's working the way it's supposed to work. That's what matters.
Richard Justice is a columnist for MLB.com. Read his blog, Justice4U. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.