Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Case for Instant Replay in Major League Baseball

Replay needs to be used for plays at home plate.
The worst thing for anybody involved in any sport is when a game is decided not by the collective of efforts of its individual participants, but rather by an aggregious error in officiating.  Officials are not perfect and will blow a call every once in a while, and thats fine, but some calls are fixable and unintrusive to virtually every sport given the technology we have today.  Pro football, basketball, hockey, and baseball all implement some form of instant replay to help officials do essentially what the main job of officiating is: get the call right.  The National Football League is the league that has shown it is least afraid to expand its use of instant replay whereas Major League Baseball has been the most hesitant.  In my opinion, many of the excuses given against the expantion of instant replay are sentimental and contrite.  Sports are not really about the fans as much as we would like to think, especially when a person's livelihood often depends on wins and losses.  If a blown call decides whether or not a team wins or loses, and that loss ultimately leads to a coach getting fired or player being released, then it doesn't just suck because "your" team lost.   It means that that person's life changes FOREVER because of that call.  That being said, MLB needs to expand use of replay beyond homerun calls.  Balls and strikes are off limits thought because those are judgement calls dependent on the ump, the same way a pass interfernce call in football can't be reviewed, or a personal foul in basketball can't be reversed.  But whether it be close calls at first base or at home plate, or fair or foul balls down the line, i'm all for it.  First, lets examine the most common reasons why people are opposed to the expanded use of replay in baseball, and then I will tell you why they are all pretty much lame.
1.  The games are long enough already and adding replay will make games go on forever.
The speed of games has been an issue in past years but there is very little that can be done to change this since baseball is an untimed game.  The longest games tend to be the best games though because there are alot of pitching changes, pinch hitters, and other strategic managerial moves that extend the length of the game.  Also, nationally televised games tend to take longer since there are a bunch more commercial breaks.  That said, there is no reason why certain plays can't be reviewed during these tv timeouts.  They were going to show the replay about 20 times anyway, might as well have an umpire take a look at it too to make sure the call was right.

Coaches will still blow up on umps with replay.  It's tradition.
2. Baseball is about tradition.  New technology will change the game as we know it.
Really? Like the game hasn't changed enough already throughout the so-called "steroid era"? There are always different eras in baseball but that doesn't mean that the essence of the game itself has changed.  Four balls is still a walk, three strikes and your out, nine innnings in a game . . . a few extra cameras are not gonna change this. 

3.  Replay will take away from the authority of the umpires.  Besides, umps blow calls for every team; it's just part of the game.
It is often said that the best officials are the ones who you don't know their names.  This is because the only time you really here about these other guys is when they screw up.  I'm sure Jim Joyce would prefer to live in obscurity rather than infamy after blowing a call last year at first base that would've given then-Detroit Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga the first perfect game in Tigers history.  Joyce saw the replay after the game and admitted he got the call wrong.  As a result, he received numerous death threats upon himself and his family and it became uncertain if it would be safe for him to ever umpire again.  But that's just "part of the game" right?  I know it's only one circumstance, but if it is possible that a person could lose his life for making a bad call than can't we atleast help individuals that are in that position by implementing this new technology?  Look, we will still get to see managers stomp out of the dugout and argue balls and strikes so that won't be missed.  Baseball umps won't have any less authority than football referees have.  They will just be a little less noticeable.  Which I don't think any ump, given the Joyce situation, would mind very much at all.
There are no famous umps; only infamous ones.
4. Human error should be celebrated, since it is unavoidable.
If human error should be "celebrated" then they should throw a party for me every night.  Kidding aside, really?  Most human errors are unavoidable, i agree with that, but most human errors are also correctable.  THAT'S THE WHOLE REASON THEY USE INSTANT REPLAY IN ALMOST EVERY SPORT.  Why should we let a mistake just stand when it can be corrected?  Besides, there are still gonna be calls that don't get reviewed by instant reply and probably should, so you guys out there that are such fans of "human error" will still have something to cheer/complain about.

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