Baseball is a game of inches. I'm sure most of you have heard this phrase, as baseball is one of those sports where one play can have a drastic effect on the game. Safe/out plays, trapped fly balls, and fair/foul calls are occurrences that happen in every Major League game. Yet, when these every game occurrences happen to be missed or incorrectly called, a large number of people remain content with the status quo. Tradition? Throw that out the window. The goal for any sporting official is to get the call CORRECT. Unless incorrect calls are part of the job description, why should we as fans and supporters of the game settle for anything less than perfection? The first professional baseball season was in 1869. Let me repeat that, 1-8-6-9. In 1869, Dmitri Mendeleev finished his periodic table, Indian political activist Mohandes Gandhi was born, and Andrew Johnson was the President of the United States of America, only 4 years removed from the Civil War. Umpires were used because there was no better alternative. And, for the next 130 years, there was no better alternative. While, umpires have certainly improved their craft in the past 143 years, they are still far from perfect (they are humans, after all). Critics to instant replay quote the tradition of umpires in baseball. "The human element!", "How can you be so cold-hearted and take away the humanity of the game?" To me it is simple. Is the objective to get the call right or wrong? If it's to get the call right and if the "human element" happens to be a casualty, so be it. We have technology that is capable of verifying any play on the field in a matter of seconds. We are not stuck in that same 19th century world without electricity, televisions, and computers. We are in the 21st Century! Thankfully, there have been some strides toward implementing this technology into improving the game. Since 2008, instant replay was given the power to review and reverse boundary home run calls (fair or foul, whether it left the playing field, etc.). This is progress, but when millions of dollars are at stake for playoff games, even regular season games have tremendous importance and value. The current model just doesn't cut it.

            On June 2, 2010, Detroit Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga was one out away from achieving just the twenty first perfect game in Major League history. You know the story, one out away from pitching immortality, Galaragga induced a ground ball to the first baseman, who then subsequently flipped the ball back to Galaragga for what should have been the final out of the game. However, the first base umpire, Jim Joyce, ruled the batter safe, despite irrefutable evidence showing that Galaragga beat the batter to the bag. Of course, this ended Galaragga's chance for a perfect game and created a tidal wave of controversy towards instant replay in baseball. About a month after this game, ESPN's Outside the Lines (ESPN's investigative team) conducted an analysis of every close play made by umpires during a two week span (excluding balls and strikes). The results: 1 in every 5 close plays are incorrect. That may or may not seem inconsequential, but when multiplied over a whole season, that is roughly 600 incorrect calls a season. Since when is a number like this acceptable? Another statement from the anti-replay crowd is that few, if anyone, feel instant replay should be implemented into baseball. In fact, Bud Selig, was quoted as saying he receives "almost no letters, calls, or thoughts on instant replay." Over the summer, Fangraphs conducted a poll asking its viewers their thoughts on instant replay. Its results: 91.5% of those who responded pushed for additional replay in some way, shape, or form. If Major League Baseball as a organization, and more importantly, as a business will not add replay for the good of the game, why can't they add replay for the fans? If fans are supportive of the idea, one would think that they would be more receptive towards attending a watching games. Clearly, replay would not only be good for the game but also from a business standpoint.

            The argument for many detractors is that tradition is too important and that replay would slow the game to a standstill pace. To that, I present this question. If you were an umpire, would you rather get the call wrong, or have the ability to correct it with instant replay? Although I could find no such evidence of umpires thoughts on replay, one would assume that people would prefer to be right than wrong. The next point of debate would be how much time goes into fixing a call. While some would argue it would be a tedious and time consuming process, I think with today's technology, the correct call could be a made almost instantly. For every game, an additional umpire in the booth with full access to all videos of the game. Then, when a controversial call arises, that "replay" official could communicate with the umpires on the field and make the correct call in a matter of seconds. Even if it were to take a little longer than that, this process would surely be more timely than the manager going onto the field and protesting his case. Manager-umpire confrontations are usually minutes in length and are rarely overturned. Replay would be a win-win, in the sense that it would minimal amounts of time and that the calls would be corrected.

            Baseball is about as American as hot dogs and apple pie. It is firmly implanted as the National Pastime and is a game rooted in the past and its tradition. Its popularity has extended into every (habitable) continent and is still growing today with a good part of that growth accredited to that very tradition for which it was founded on. All those idiosyncrasies are what makes the game so much fun. But we have reached a point where technology is not just some new fad but something firmly embedded into our daily lives. We have the opportunity to improve this already great game and take it to new heights and audiences. Yet, "tradition" remains the biggest roadblock to further use of instant replay. If tradition was still that important, why did we ever introduce night games, electronic scoreboards, new playoff formats, and the designated hitter? Because tradition is overrated.  



11/19/2012 10:20pm

Nice article. I agree with this. The MLB should expand instant replay on most assets of the game


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