June 04, 2008
Baseball and instant replay

Marc Campos brings up a touchy subject.

There has been a debate brewing to bring instant replay into Major League Baseball. That's a very bad and dumb idea. I really don't think it is something that baseball fans want. We accept the fact that there will be blown calls by umpires. Was it fair or foul? Did it hit the yellow line? Did he make the tag? Did he trap the ball? I can't recall an instance in which an umpire's blown call help decide a playoff contender or World Serious champ.

Um, Don Denkinger? In Game 6 of the 1985 World Series? It's only one of the worst calls of all time, and it most definitely had an effect on the outcome; just ask any Cardinals fan, and wait till they stop sputtering and swearing.

Now while I agree that instant replay in general is a bad idea for baseball, I do think there are two specific situations where it could be reasonably used. One is for fair/foul calls on home runs, or in cases where a possible home run is ruled to have been in play. These are really tough calls for umpires, especially since they're often a hundred feet or more from where the ball is at the critical moment. An ump will ask a colleague for help when he didn't get a good view of a play; the only difference here is that since there isn't - and can't be - anyone else in better position to see what happened, we should consider letting technology help out. The same case can be made for some fair/foul calls; the reason why it's only for reviewing calls of fair is because once a ball is called foul, the play ends, so you can't really restore equity in the event of a reversal.

In all honesty, I'm not opposed to the concept of replay being used more widely than that, but I can't see such a proposal having any chance of being accepted, and I think Campos' point about the time factor is a valid one. The argument about "it's always been this way, fans expect some bad calls", however, doesn't really move me. If we can do better, why shouldn't we try? Baseball used to have fewer than four umps in a game; two or three was the norm for a long time, and one was once the rule. We changed the way that was, and got better officiating as a result. Tradition isn't always a positive thing.

Frankly, once the technology has improved to a certain level, I hope there's a move to make ball-and-strike calls done by a video pitch tracking system, whose still-primitive ancestors are available now. Speaking as someone who's done it at a Babe Ruth League level, calling pitches is hard, almost impossibly so for Major League hurlers. Have you ever seen a game that didn't feature multiple questions about the strike zone? Again I say, if we can do it better, why wouldn't we want to? I have no illusion about the resistance to such a change, but I don't see how this doesn't happen some day. I just hope I live long enough to see it.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on June 04, 2008 to Baseball

just ask any Cardinals fan

Please don't. My dad still hasn't stopped swearing.

Posted by: Pete on June 4, 2008 7:35 AM
Post a comment

(If you haven't left a comment here before, you may need to be approved by the site owner before your comment will appear. Until then, it won't appear on the entry. Thanks for waiting.)