Instant Replay in Baseball

Some of you may have noticed, or even participated in, the current poll here (Should Instant Replay be used in Baseball?).  What are your thoughts, readers?

Personally, I think that the writing is on the wall – it’s coming.  Last November the General Managers voted for it and this spring they’ve been testing it out in some of the lower leagues (rookie leagues I believe).  I think it’s only a matter of time for it to be approved by the various unions and associations and it’ll be upon us.

Damn.  I just don’t like it.

Baseball is a lot of things: strategic; nuanced; a thinking man’s game; etc. But it’s also human.  From the misjudged fly ball to the booted grounder to the errant throw, human error abound.   A perfectly played game is just a pitch away from going awry, and it isn’t limited to the players – the almighty umpires are just as susceptible to mistake as the players.  It’s a game where failure is the norm (if a batter failes 7 out of 10 times, he’s a star), you just suck it up and play.  Bad call?  Deal with it and move on, that’s why there are 162 games in a season – the best teams will still rise to the top.   Real baseball fans know this, just as they know that arguments with umpires are more about firing up the team and disrupting momentum than genuinely trying to persuade Blue.

With instant replay involved, all of these dynamics go out the window and we’re left with a sport where whining can actually be rewarded.  Nice thought huh?  That sounds like just as good of an idea as making sure all of the 6 year olds in little league bat, number of Outs be damned.  I’ll puke at the first flag thrown onto the field for a replay.

So, where does this leave us?  I think the best we can hope for is that its use is severely limited.  So limited, in fact, that everyone forgets it is there.  I’m talking things like: no replays on balls and strikes; no replays to find out if the runner at third tagged up correctly; no replays to see if the second baseman tagged the runner on the stolen base attempt.  Nope, none of that.  Those plays have been going on for a hundred years and everyone can deal with the consequences.

I am, however, open to maybe using the replay in situations where the umpires have been put at a disadvantage over time.  Like trying to look through the glare coming off the windows in Houston to determine if a ball was over the home run line.   Or trying to tell if the 200mph line drive off of the latest steroid user is fair or foul.  Maybe that should be the test when drawing up the rules for its use.

I repeat: balls & strikes and routine plays in the field should be strictly off-limits.  I would even go so far as to say that its use should be discouraged – maybe only allowing a small handful of contestings (is that what they’re called?) per team per season.

Dear Major League Baseball, don’t screw this up.  Thanks, A Fan.

4 thoughts on “Instant Replay in Baseball

  1. I agree. Baseball is a game played by human beings and human beings make mistakes. Easy grounders are booted and fair balls are called foul, it’s all part of the game.

    I’m sure that over time someone will figure out an economical way to properly place cameras so that balls and strikes can be called consistently by a computer. But it seems to me that part of the game within the game, for pitchers and batters, is figuring out how a particular umpire is calling pitches. Those smart enough to figure it out the soonest during a game will have earned an advantage, as they should.

    I don’t even really like baseball that much, and anything that slows play down further, such as replay, has to be a bad thing.

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  2. I agree with most of what you’ve stated, however I would limit it even more. Possibly on some disputed home run calls . As far as balls and strikes, no way! I agree with Dan as to slowing the game down even more, they could turn into 4 hour affairs.

    I advocate using instant replay in playoffs and World Series games only. It’s a shame when games of that magnitude can be lost because of an extremely bad call by an umpire i.e. Don Denkinger in the 1987 World Series. I still have nightmares about that one.

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  3. I couldn’t agree more. I hate the idea of instant replay in baseball. It goes against everything baseball stands for in my opinion. I always think of the ongoing analogies that compare baseball to life. You don’t get instant replay in life, and you shouldn’t get it in baseball.

    I also think it’s interesting that we can tolerate the imperfections in our star players. Derek Jeter can bobble a ball. Albert Pujols might go 0-4 on a given night. Brandon Webb might walk 6 batters and lose the game. But we all just think, “Oh, it’s okay. Everyone has a rough night.” But we have a different standard for our umpires, who are just as human and just as likely to make a mistake.

    So much of the joy of baseball is in the human element. First we have instant replay. What’s next? Are we going to install machines to take the home plate umpire’s job and call a consistent strike zone in all 162 games of the season. That would suck! I love it that every game, every umpire has a slightly different strike zone and that players have to adjust. And what would come after a robotic umpire? Robotic players? Is it perfection we want, or is it baseball? The two are quite different.

    Unlike Dan, I love baseball. I think it is one of the truly greatest products of human creativity of all time. I think it is one of the most perfect sports because of its infallibility. Because of its human element. Because it is sometimes messy. I love that in baseball I’m almost always seeing things I’ve never seen before.

    It’s also interesting that we’re discussing instant replay, which would slow games down, at the same time that Bud Selig is trying to enforce timing rules on players and umpires to make games shorter. Don’t get me started on that one.

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