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Let’s Not (And Say We Did) Go to the Video Tape

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Dear Major League Baseball,

I’m just one woman with one opinion [well, I have a bunch of opinions, but I’ll spare you all but one tonight], but I have something vitally important to tell you.

Guys, whatever you do, do not institute instant replay. Do not, do Not, do NOT do it. And let me tell you why.

I’m sure you’ve noticed that baseball is already a slow-moving game in a fast-paced sports world. There are many natural breaks in the game, from guys who adjust their batting gloves 50 times between pitches [hi Nomah!] to the late-inning, one-pitch use of relief pitchers. During these breaks, fans watching at home are subjected to extended, inane, blathering commentary by the game’s announcers. I can’t believe I actually have to tell you this, but I think I speak for all of America [even the mainstream] when I say that the last thing we want is more air time for Tim McCarver.

As it is, you have my attention only during the post-season, and only if the teams playing are of interest to me. I would ignore baseball altogether if you institute instant replay because, for starters, it’s a complete misnomer. It’s nowhere near instant: it adds time and confusion to the game, not to mention to the announcer’s booth. Once it’s implemented, every single umpire’s call will have the potential to be challenged, and I’ll have to hear the announcers wonder if the manager will make a challenge, analyze why the manager did or didn’t make a challenge, and drone on during the replay analysis itself. And then, of course, I will hear their debate over whether or not the reviewer has enough evidence to overturn the original call, followed by the analysis of why the reviewer’s decision was or wasn’t the right call.

Please don’t subject me to that. The replays you have right now are annoying enough. We, the already half-hearted fans at home, sit through an unending stream of replays shown in ultra-slow-motion and from several camera angles. During these replays, the guys in the booth ramble endlessly about a base-runner’s pinky toe touching the base a nanosecond before the defender’s glove skimmed off the sleeve of his shirt. “Did you see that? Did you see that right there? I think the strap on his glove brushed the shirt sleeve. Can we get a close-up of that shot?”

But the instant replay, I’m sure you’ll say, will be designed to overrule obvious, egregious incorrect calls. Isn’t it important that the correct call be made, you’ll ask? Um, not really. Players make errors all the time. Why would or should umpires be any different? I hate to be cliché, but mistakes are part of the game. Besides, think of the lost entertainment value: if instant replay had been in place in the ’70s, for example, what would Billy Martin have had to kick up so much dust about?

And look what has happened in the NFL, where instant replay is being used to detect errors that aren’t really errors half the time. During an instant replay, the referee can see the play from angles that he and his striped colleagues didn’t have during the action. Why should a play be reviewed from an angle the referees couldn’t see on the field? They saw what they saw from the angles they had and made the call. If you show them the action from another angle, of course they might see something different. How can they be expected to make “the correct call” when they can’t see absolutely everything? From their perspective, based on what they can see, they usually do make the right call. So replays should be used only to see if the referee made an error from only his angle, if they’re used at all.

But that’s football, where there is chaos on the field during every play. I’m amazed at what those referees see all by themselves, aren’t you? Baseball, by contrast, is a slow, fairly clean game where half the players sit on the bench, hocking loogies, while the other half play. I mean, come on — a maximum of 12 players can be on the field at once, three of whom are standing in the outfield away from everyone else, and none of whom are allowed to touch each other unless they’re making a play at a base.

How hard can the umpires’ job be?

So while I’m not thrilled with the NFL instant replay, it can probably be tweaked and improved upon. But I can’t see instant replay adding value to MLB. All it will add is time. And talk. And channel flipping. So do what you have to do at your GMs meeting, but please think of the fans, without whom, none of you would have a job.



[Also posted at Bitch Has *Word*]
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About bhw

  • cur3t

    bhw –

    i see most of your points, agree with some and disagree with some…i understand the “human factor” and the slowing down of the game.

    to me the biggest issue is the injustice of losing a world series due to a bad call – case in point: the dekinger call that cost the cards in ’85.

    and re “how hard can an umpires job be?”…well, give it a try sometime and then get back to me…

  • bhw

    and re “how hard can an umpires job be?”…well, give it a try sometime and then get back to me…

    That was a bit of rhetorical hyperbole from me, curt. I know it’s not really easy. But I was comparing it to a football umpire/referee’s job, which seems a heck of a lot harder to me.

  • Eric Olsen

    The system of conferring with the other umpires on ciritical plays is already in place and worked very well in the playoffs when the Yankees had two calls reversed. It was fucking classic! If the conferring also brought in replay on home run calls and catch/no catch calls it might make sense since they’re already spending extra time on it anyway, at least for the playoffs.

    But baseball is full of judgment calls, like balls and strikes, and replay would be disastrous there. They already videotape and analyze umpires on balls and strikes and rate them internally, so that helps keep them a bit more uniform against an objective standard than they used to be.

    I can’t see replay at all for the regular season.

    BTW, umpiring baseball is extremely difficult work requiring amazing sensory acuity, immediate decision-making, and people skills. I haven’t officiated the other sports so I can’t really compare.