Thursday, November 5, 2009

My Take On Instant Replay In Baseball - Revisited

In May of 2008, I wrote a post about my opposition to instant replay in baseball. Later that season, MLB instituted instant replay in fair-pole and over-the-wall questions on homeruns. The awful umpiring this past post-season has generated quite a lot of discussion about expanding it. And as tempting is that is, I'm still against it.
  • I don't think it'll help. I can't imagine a more convenient way to make the umpires even more complacent. Why bother getting a call right the first time when you can just cue up the film in a minute? The focus really needs to be placed on getting it right the first time, not covering up errors.
  • It could change the game in play. Umpires signal everything and the course of the play continues depending on the signal they give. If they go back and change the call later, the play is dead and the potential for something unexpected is gone.
  • Where does this end? Ok, so MLB caves into pressure and allows replays of fair/foul balls down the line. Then what? Safe/out? Ball/strike? If we let it go too far, we may as well all just buy PlayStation games and play each other. We should enjoy the human factor that makes baseball different than other sports.
  • People are already complaining about the time. So many people I know claim they would be baseball fans but it's just so slow. (I always think 'yeah right' when they say that.) There are so many unnecessary delays as it is: delayed starting times and starts of half innings due to tv time, batters stepping out of the box 89 million times a game, "time" called every 13.2 seconds, pitchers stepping off, pick-off attempts, visits to the mound, blah, blah, blah. Why would we want to add more delays?
  • It would be technologically expensive. Even though most games are televised, they're not nationally televised, so they simply don't have the camera coverage to pull it off during the regular season. Yeah, it's kind of a lame reason, but I still think it counts.
With all that being said, I do agree that teams, players, and fans deserved better than what they got this post-season. These umpires were awful and they really need to be more accountable for their horrible performances. However, I don't think that un-doing mistakes is the answer; avoiding them to begin with is. I don't really have any great ideas to improve the situation. After all, they're real guys just trying to do their jobs. I don't know if fining or reprimanding them would help. Maybe they could implement some sort of monthly performance reviews and only allow the best umpires to even think about the playoffs. I don't know -- they probably do have something like that.

I do realize that I'm one of about four people on the planet who feels this way. I'm interested to find out what other fans think. Let me know your opinion.


Heineken-77 said...

Couldn't disagree more. The human error element is destroying baseball. Its was ok when we didn't have the technology, but now we do.

I like a game where the right call is made, not one based on an umpire's angled guess. If a player is out-he's out. Why would someone not mind if an ump called him safe. It is cheating. This happens all the time where everyone knows the ump made a wrong call and its BS.

What is worse is that the ump-feels the pressure that he made the wrong call and will make a "make-up call" to help the other team out. THis is even worse in that an ump will look for a play where he can "neglect" to make the right call.

The only thing nice about not having replay is that your favorite team may benefit from it from time to time. But they will also get screwed from time to time. So why not fix it and play a fair game where the right call is made.

I don't think the replay would slow down the game at all. It would speed it up. No more managers yelling at the umps for 10 minutes. Most replay calls could be done in 10 seconds with one replay look. Most are clear cut. Fair/foul--safe/out. Simple.

I like the approach that is taken from

1. A fifth ump on each team is stationed at a monitor just off the playing field with access to replays from all cameras in the park. (That's a total of 15 more umps. Their union will like that and it's not all that expensive.)

2. Managers can appeal any play (except balls and strikes) to an ump on the field who decides if a replay check is warranted. (No formal limit to the number of appeals. Abuse can result in ejection from the game.)

3. If appealed, the replay ump renders the call by hand signal immediately. (No slowdown of the game under most circumstances.)

4. If the replay ump sees something needing to be corrected, he communicates it to the crew chief who makes the correction on the field immediately.

linda said...

There are so many pro and con arguments that I don't know.
Human error has been so much a part of baseball for so long it seems like part of the game.
It could open a whole can of worms.

Jim H. said...

Preventing mistakes would clearly be better than trying to correct them later. But...I'm not sure how to do that.

I read somewhere that umps are poorly trained initially and, as they work their way through the minor leagues, are poorly paid and not consistently evaluated. Perhaps the training and supervision could be improved. If so, I'd favor that approach over replays.