Thursday, August 28, 2008

Instant replay in baseball a no-brainer


Unfortunately, my three-week-long vacation has come to a close (hence my long-awaited -- I'm sure -- return to this writing space).

I, for one, wish I could have a replay on what was a spectacular time in the great Northeast. That, of course, ain't happening.

What is happening, however, is the introduction of a different kind of replay -- instant replay to baseball. And, boy, is it overdue! The system will be tried out in three ballparks today and then everywhere Friday.

Good stuff.

There, really, is no argument against the system MLB is instituting (maybe that's why I'm writing this column; gotta ease my way back into top-notch column-writing shape, you know?). The league made the right call in only implementing the system for controversial home-run calls.

That, of course, makes perfect sense, since those are the only blatant calls that have been missed all season. Sure, every once in a while a home-plate umpire gets a call at the plate wrong. But not as often as the men in blue have erred in calling -- or not calling -- home runs. During one two-week stretch, it became absolutely ludicrous how many calls were missed. And with TV cameras all over the ballparks, it must have been downright embarrassing for the umpires' union.

Now, that won't happen. Hey, those are tough calls to make. It's one thing in the playoffs when two umpires are stationed halfway down the first- and third-base lines. But during the regular season, the first- and third-base umps have to make home-run calls. At times, they're close to 300 feet away from the action. And especially when a searing line drive is soaring over the outstretched glove of an outfielder, that's a really tough judgement call.

Now, all those calls will end up right. Tell me what's wrong with that?

I love baseball purists. They're the ones who truly know the game. But if they argue against this change, they're dead wrong. With the technology available -- and with the NFL, NBA and NHL already using varying forms of replay -- this is a no-brainer. Thanfully, enough calls were missed this season to create this quick response. It's much better that a Pirates-Rockies game in July (generic example) be influenced by a poor call than a Cubs-Red Sox World Series game in November.

Can you imagine the rioting Cubs fans would partake in if they lost the Fall Classic because a David Ortiz single was called a home run? Yes, ugly pictures dance through my head.

The other issue here is whether MLB should have waited until the 2009 season to bring in replay. In one word, "No!" OK, there are some rules that should wait until a new season. A midseason change can be distracting to both players, coaches and officials. But not replay. Friday's games won't be any different from those of two days ago.

But what about fairness, the critic asks. Simple answer: If NFL refs blow critical calls in Weeks 4 and 5, does that mean they shouldn't try to call good games in Weeks 14 and 15? The bottom line is improving the system. And if that can be done right now -- if human error can be taken out of the equation -- then so be it.

Yes, some teams got robbed during the nebulous couple weeks of mistakes. But those teams -- and their fans -- should feel comfort in the fact that it won't happen again. (And as far as exacting revenge, Mom always told me that "two wrongs don't make a right." She's a smart woman.)

So we move forward, baseball fans, into a new era of America's pastime. Except that the game remains the same. That, really, is the beauty of it. This change will hardly ever be noticed. The purists can still enjoy their good 'ole game without many distractions.

But if there's one of those controversial calls, baseball people -- from players, to managers, to the umps themselves -- will be able to relax. The right call will be made.

And then the game will continue, with the baseball minds back to thinking about the next pitch.

1 comment:

bk said...

Good point, but why are you talking about baseball? Come on, it's college football time!