Friday, November 30, 2007

Replay OK, But Strike Zones Are Getting Out Of Hand

There was a time that, had you asked me if we should instill video replay into Major League Baseball, I would have knocked your hot dog out of your hand and dumped your beer on you.

That time is in the past.

MLB, as you might know, is seriously considering using video replay to resolve certain plays, notably home runs (to determine fair or foul or fan interference or over the wall or not) and fan interference in balls still in play. Other situations may become replay-ready going forward, such as whether balls are caught or trapped in the outfield.

What replay will NOT be used for (at least not now) is to determine balls and strikes, out or safe, or if a batter was hit by a pitch or not.

I would have been resistant back in the day because I felt like part of baseball's charm was the human element in umpiring. Plus, the boys in blue pretty much got everything right -- and replay usually vindicated them anyway. But the plays for which replay is being considered are ones that are genuinely tough to call with the naked eye, and I suppose I feel the time is right to let technology in a little bit.

Of course, if rulings on the field are overturned by the cameras, then baseball will have to incorporate contingency plans, i.e. where to place batters, baserunners, etc. A ball called a home run by the umpire, and then overturned, would of course be turned into a ground rule double, with baserunners (if applicable) being placed accordingly. Obviously, balls originally called doubles or triples that end up turning into home runs thanks to replay would have cut-and-dried ramifications.

I must admit, though, that balls-and-strikes, while certainly not replayable, are getting on my nerves -- because umpires' strike zones are seemingly getting more and more varied. Again, I realize this is that human element of which I speak. But there's human element, and there's "WTF?" The strike zone is edging toward the latter.

So MLB has my permission to use video replay in the situations earmarked. Nothing wrong with gettin' a li'l help.


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