Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Why The Rush To Replay In Baseball?

Why are we in such a rush to install instant replay into Major League Baseball?

Replay is being seriously considered, as you probably know, to determine such things as fair/foul, whether a ball is a homerun, etc. Fine. But the proponents are rushing to push it through in time for games next month and the post-season. The umpires union, predictably -- among others -- have some serious concerns about the use of replay. Some have to do with logistics, others with what types of plays would be subject to review. But the bulk of the umpires' worries center around how the system will be implemented.

You can read more about that HERE.

I don't know why, after some 100+ years without instant replay (OK, so over 50 of those years were before television), we need to rush it through for 2008. The umpires, who have been known to act out in the same petulant, crybaby manner that their charges in uniform are famous for, actually have some legitimate, reasonable objections. They're not warm and fuzzy over the manner in which the replay system will be used, i.e. the type of equipment and its placement; potential public access to it; which umpires will be allowed to view the plays; and the fact that league officials may need to be consulted. That, and more. Most concerns don't appear to be outlandish at all.

My concern is, that when you watch a game on TV, often the cameras can't even tell you whether a ball wrapped around the foul pole or not. So much of baseball calls, like whether a ball cleared the fence for a homerun, are based on having the proper depth perception and angle. Sometimes TV, with its two-dimensional look, doesn't always provide that. There are actually occasions where the naked eye knows best.

My opinion of MLB umpires has gone thru cycles. In the 1970s and 1980s, I held them in the highest esteem and believed them to be the most accurate and mature of the four major sports' officials. But about 15 years ago or so, when many of the older guard retired, it seemed that the new generation was more confrontational and reticent. I began to lose respect for the men in blue. Now I've softened a bit, though I still think too many umpires believe themselves to be above reproach. Yet when I read their concerns over replay, I couldn't honestly say that they were too off-base.

It just seems that something as important as introducing replay to baseball should be done with as many t's crossed and i's dotted as possible. We've gone this long without it. Let's take a step back, address all concerns with time and patience, and take a look at it for 2009. Maybe try it in spring training and get some more feedback. Try it some more during selected regular season games in '09. Then MAYBE it will be polished and ready to go for the 2009 playoffs.

Baseball itself is a slow game, one built on patience and languidness. The same approach should be taken when it comes to installing TV replays.


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