Gettin’ it right


Major League Baseball is preparing to introduce video replay, so that the umpires can look at a replay to determine if a ball actually cleared the fence for a home run, or whether a ball that did clear the fence was fair or foul. This stems from a couple of issues they had earlier this season where the umpires clearly got the calls wrong. I think these are the only kinds of plays that they will be using replay for ā€” not safe or out on the bases, not strikes and balls, and not whether a batter who checked his swing went around or not.

The best thing about this idea is that it will take away the whining by players, coaches, and fans about how they would have won the game were it not for that bad call by the ump. With video replay, the umpires bad call can be reversed if it truly was a bad call, meaning that if you lose the game it’s not because of the umpires, it’s just because you didn’t score as many runs as the other team, so quitcher whining.

I was going to make disparaging comments about baseball purists who probably won’t like this. I won’t because while I like the idea of using video replay, I don’t think it should be used for balls and strikes at all. That needs to be decided by a human. I can’t explain why, it just does. I guess this means that the whiners can still say that they lost a game because of a bad call. Oh well.

I wouldn’t have a problem if they also used video replay on things like whether a runner was safe or out. The only problem there is that they’d need to limit how often they did this, or managers would be calling for a replay ten times a game, which would slow the game down. Maybe only for plays at the plate, or maybe managers could not call for a review more than twice per nine-inning game. Maybe give ’em one more if the game goes into extra innings, and then another every five innings after that.

Some are concerned that this will slow the game down too much. As long as it’s not abused by managers wanting a replay of every other play, I don’t think this will be a problem. As Dan Shulman said the other day on the radio, either we wait while the umpires spend a few minutes talking and hope that they get the call right, or we wait while the umpires spend a few minutes looking at the replay and actually get the call right.

There is one thing that concerns me and one thing that confuses me. The thing that concerns me is that umpires will have a safety net. If there’s a bang-bang play at the plate, the umpire has to make a split-second decision on whether the running was safe or out. That decision, 99.99% of the time, is final. But if the ump knows that if he gets the call wrong, the replay will bail him out, he may not worry as much about whether he gets it right. OK, hang on…. before I even finished writing that previous sentence, I realized how ridiculous it was. If anything, it’s completely backwards. It’s more likely that umpires will not want to be shown to be wrong by the video replay, so they’re probably more likely to try to get the call right the first time.

The thing that confuses me is that they will start using this system on Thursday. Shouldn’t they be testing the crap out of it in the minor leagues first before implementing it at the major league level? You just know that there are going to be problems with the system for a while after it goes live for the first time ā€” especially if it’s been implemented quickly. Do you want those glitches and mistakes to be made in September, when the most important games of the season are being played? Or worse, during a playoff game? I’d put it in place in the minor leagues now, and use that plus spring training next year to iron out the kinks before using it for real next season. Changes like this just should not be made mid-season.

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