Thursday, August 28, 2008

Instant Replay Arrives

Major League baseball has finally listened to the swarms of people who think baseball needs some form of instant replay. They have finally ignored the people who think that replay needs to be kept out of the game. (Apparently, the spirit of the game included the human element of umpires blowing calls left and right) They will begin instituting the practice tomorrow, and we’ll all see how it goes. I haven’t had the chance to read up on how exactly this will work. I hear it will be allowed on fair/foul questions and on home run/not home run decisions. That seems reasonable. In those cases, there’s a line right there. All the camera needs is to look at the line and see if the ball crosses it. The process should be fairly simple. But, it does invite a few questions.

How much time is this going to take? Baseball has a bad reputation as it is as being a long slow sport. (How much longer it really is than a football game, I’m not sure) The last thing it needs is another process tacking on more time. In theory, it should move pretty quickly. In fact, instant replay has already been used in a MLB game to determine a home run. A few years ago, (I want to say it was in Florida or Cincinnati) the group of umpires was huddling to decide if a ball had cleared the wall. Apparently, they were having trouble coming to a consensus. So, one of them had the bright idea to wander over to the TV camera just off field, and had them replay the play through the viewfinder. The actual review took less time then the huddle took, and the correct call was made. That example bodes well. As long as the process isn’t bogged down by rules and checkpoints, it should be just fine. It also matters how often this process will be going on. As it stands, there aren’t many instances where a foul call or homerun call is disputed. But, now that it’s an option, does that increase the frequency? Are people going to think, “Boy that was close. I better have them look at it just in case?” Again, that’s going to slow things down more than fans are going to like. At the moment, though, it looks like minimal disruption to the game.

How fair is it to implement during the season? If one playoff contender wins a game because of a reversed call, is that fair? What about other teams that may have won more games if calls were reversed? Baseball just needs to hope that things don’t work out that way. Baseball’s great at that. From the All-Star game, to division tiebreakers, MLB is great at hoping conflict doesn’t present itself. Sure beats the heck out of coming up with an actual plan.

Where do we go from here? That’s the elephant in the room. This year, a couple high profile games involved missed calls that prompted this whole race to replay. So, they made sure to fix the problems that occurred in those games. What about the next call that’s missed? What happens the next time an umpire assumes a tag is made on a baserunner during the ALCS? Will that be included in the reviewable list, or will he just make another apology? How about the next time a runner is awarded home plate on interference in the ALDS? Will there be calls for that to be reviewed? Where is the line? In this case, the line seemed to be “when something bad happens to both New York teams on national television in the span of a month.” Is that the yardstick we’ll be using from now on?

Whatever the answers to the questions, replay is here. That’s a good thing. I see nothing at all wrong with getting the calls right. I agree it should be up to the players to decide the games. So, let’s use whatever technology we have to make sure that they do that. This helps everyone.

Nicely done Bud.

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