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Instant Replay in Major League Baseball

Umpire Meeting

Umpire Meeting

Bad Calls.  Angry managers who run out and argue.  Ejections by umpires.  Players overcoming the odds to beat their opponents and the umpires.  This is the beauty of baseball.  It was the beauty of baseball.  Bud Selig and Major League Baseball are about to adopt new rules that would allow more replays in baseball games and allow managers to even challenge plays like in football.  Umpires will no longer be eminent, and there will be a much different feel to baseball.  With the use of replay, challenges, and the QuesTec strike zone system, there may not be a need to have umpires in a few years.  Everything will be recorded, reviewed, and “correct” through the use of technology, and the sport that embodies human interaction and reaction will be belittled to becoming politically correct.  Fans and teams may think they want this, but it will ultimately result in longer games, less entertaining games, and fewer exciting moments in baseball.

Baseball is considered America’s past time, although the NFL has gradually become the sport of choice for American fans.  The one thing baseball had was its umpires and occasional bad calls.  Even if your team is on the wrong end of a bad call, the feeling of being on the positive side of a bad call later on is awesome.  Your team got the call and there’s nothing anybody can do about it.  Players can argue, managers can argue, and fans can yell onto the field.  But in the end, the umpires stick up for each other and will not change a call just because a tantrum is being thrown by the unlucky team’s manager.

Bad calls have been a stable in baseball that provides fans entertainment and emotional roller coasters.  Although replay will provide a more certain and correct call, the negatives heavily outweigh the positives.  Each team will receive three challenges per game, with one in the first 6 innings and 2 from the 7th inning on.  That is potentially six challenges per game!  If those challenges take anywhere near as long as it does for umpires to review home runs, or for NFL referees to review a play, or even for NBA officials to review who last touched a ball before going out of bounds, baseball games are about to get a lot longer with much more down time.

Home runs are already allowed to be reviewed by umpires if they feel there is a doubt about the ball being fair or foul, or a home run or ground rule double, but if you watched a game between the Indians and Athletics back in May, there was a home run that was ruled a double, reviewed by umpires, and still not corrected to the right call of a home run.  I think that home runs should be allowed to be reviewed; they can be the biggest game changers and always change the score if the hit is indeed a home run.  Allowing managers to waste time 3 times per game seems over the top.  Of course there will be examples of how a challenge reversed the outcome of a game and how it is beneficial to baseball.  I guarantee there will be plenty of other examples where managers challenge plays just because they can and end up adding 30 minutes to a game for no reason.

If baseball does adapt a challenge policy, you can bet that Bobby Cox’s record for most ejections by a manager will be safe.  There will be much less to argue about and get tossed out for.  Hockey has encouraged fighting as a way to entertain fans and keep seats filled.  MMA and UFC has become unbelievably popular with the hardcore fighting and violence.  Baseball has arguing and ejections.  It’s not the same as fights, but I love seeing a manager come out and argue, kick dirt, throw his hat, and steal bases off of the field over a bad call.  The only arguing left will be between players, which will mainly be if batters get hit by pitches.  That can be entertaining as well but much less common than a good manager ejection.

How often has a bad call actually affected the outcome of a baseball game?  Once in a while maybe. It is not a huge epidemic as some critics are claiming it to be.  Also, coaches always use the motivational speech of, “don’t let the umpires beat you,” and “the umpires can’t affect the outcome of the game if you play your best.”  That was really a lie as umpires could change the outcome of a game.  With replay and countless challenges, they will have less ability to make a bad call that stays a bad call.  Will one changed call be worth the hours added to games over the course of a year?  Major League Baseball should use a trial of challenges and replay in the Winter leagues or Spring Training, and then implement then later on if proven effective.  Rushing to conclusions that this will be good for baseball is premature and arrogant.

Umpire meeting with Joe Maddon

Umpires Meet with Rays Manager Joe Maddon

 

If you need an example of how replay can completely ruin the pace of a game and how it is meant to be played, go watch the NBA playoffs from this past year.  The first 45 minutes of the games take 45 minutes.  The last 3 minutes of a game also take 45 minutes because referees have to review who touched the ball last on every out of bounds ball.  They review the game tape to get the “right” call, and basically give both teams free timeouts and stop any momentum swing one team has over the other.  I fear this will happen in baseball too.  There are already enough ways for a team to try to slow down momentum with meetings on the mound, pitching changes, and delaying tactics.  Baseball doesn’t need another one with the addition of challenges and more replays.

I believe in preserving the old style of baseball while improving it with modern day techniques.  Replay is an unnecessary want and need of fans and owners that will prove to be more negative than positive.  The one call replay still wouldn’t be able to fix is the absurd infield fly rule that was called in the Braves-Cardinals wild card game last season, but that is a whole other argument for a different post.  If you think this post is wrong, you are out of challenges as a reader and are forced to read what is here.  You will receive 3 new challenges at the start of the next article.

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