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Instant Replay

The Associated Press is reporting that Major League Baseball will begin allowing instant replay to be used by umpires. It says:
For now, video will be used only on so-called "boundary calls," such as determining whether fly balls went over the fence or whether potential home runs were fair or foul. Video will be collected at the office of Major League Baseball Advanced Media in New York. If the crew chief at a game decides replay needs to be checked, umpires will leave the field, technicians at MLBAM will show umpires the video and the crew chief will make the call.
This is a good thing. There is no benefit to the sport, its fans, or players to not having a call made correctly. Given how few "boundary calls" are close, this will be an exceedingly rare occurrence. People who don't like baseball already think it's slow. Those who love it, want the calls to be made correctly.

Comments

Smitch said…
Two random thoughts:

First, I think there's an argument to be made that replay will help speed up the game, since it will avoid those long on-field discussions/arguments between umpires themselves and between managers and umps. The television audience already has the benefit of replay, and I think we'd agree the right call can often be made more quickly with replay that it takes them to discuss/argue it on the field, only to make the wrong call half the time.

Second, while I wholeheartedly agree that replay should be instituted -- particularly for "boundary calls" -- I think your assertion that "there is no benefit... to not having a call made correctly" raises an interesting question. If that's true, why not have a computer (like questec) call balls and strikes? Or, more hypothetically, if I told you I had a computer that would call balls and strikes accurately 100% of the time, would you be in favor of using it instead of umps for that purpose alone?
Anonymous said…
"People who don't like baseball already think it's slow. Those who love it, want the calls to be made correctly."

That's an astute observation, and I agree wholeheartedly, Wally.

Smitch, I think you raise an interesting question, but it may just be a tad too far over the line to be considered a real analogue to boundary calls. Pitches are the central element to the game, the one necessary condition for there to be a 'play.' I think the sentimental elements associated with the umpire's call of each pitch are far too embedded in the game's heart and soul to be traded out for a hypothetical computer call any time soon. Not to sound too melodramatic about it, but there's simply no way that games would have the same cadence or character without an ump calling each pitch.

That being said, it's potentially the same effect if an ump calls a bad strike to end a 9th inning rally as a bad call deciding whether or not a ball went out of the park in a similar situation. Considered from this perspective, I don't think you can logically differentiate between the two calls, and were you to extend that logic then umps should be replaced by a hypothetical technology for calling pitches. I just think that these sorts of decisions are made while balancing the logical with the sentimental and the political... and those are the elements that would realistically prevent it from ever happening.
Wally said…
That's a great hypothetical question about robot umpires posited by Smitchy. My answer is that I don't ever want to see the end of umpires - though I do which they'd stop approaching the way they call a game as if they are entitled to a style of strike zone. The zone is defined, no one gets to go all Jackson Pollack with the zone.

I love MGD's point about the cadence and feel of games, and umpires' connection to that. Striiiiike is part of the soundtrack of baseball.

Also, while there are obvious exceptions (Livan Hernandez in the W.S, Tom Glavine's career), how balls and strikes are called do not generally distort a game's outcome as clearly and dramatically as a bad homer call. Good umpires might make bad calls, but they should be rare and they should not clearly benefit either team consistently. I think that in almost every case that is the way it works out. Yourrrrrrr out!

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