By Daniel I. Dorfman–
Common sense and baseball sometimes can be contradictory phrase. But once in a while, the sport manages to get something right, or at least correct a longstanding wrong.
After two straight post seasons of dubious umpiring, Major League Baseball is leaning toward increasing the use of instant replay possibly by 2012, according to the Associated Press. Replay would be used for fair/foul calls down the line and to see if fly balls are caught or trapped. But it will not be used for basepath calls and ball/strike calls. In other words, MLB is going to have it right.
Since instant replay was brought into the game on August 28, 2008, the technology has been reserved for home run calls. But it has always been puzzling why those same cameras can’t be used to check whether a ball landed fair or foul down the line. Most of the time, a replay can determine whether a ball kicked chalk or landed foul. And if necessary the same technology used in tennis today to determine line calls can be used in baseball. The missed call of Joe Mauer’s fly ball down the left field at Yankee Stadium in the 2009 playoffs should have made clear to everyone why replay can be a benefit to the game.
Whether balls are trapped or caught cleanly is going to be a little harder to determine since camera angles are sometimes not direct, but even if one really bad call is overturned than the game is improved.
There are the inevitable cries of the “human element” to the game. Padre closer Heath Bell told the San Diego Union-Tribune, “I’m not a big fan of replay. Umpires make mistakes; players make mistakes. It’s all part of the game.”
But the “human element” should be minimized to the players who drop fly balls (something White Sox fans are painfully aware of so far in 2011) or managers making decisions. For the most part, the umpires do a very good job and while it is impossible to eliminate all bad calls, but there is no reason in this day and age why certain errors can’t be corrected.
This is not to say replay should be used for every controversial decision and it was a relief to hear that it appears MLB is not going down that road. Ball/strike calls should always be a matter of judgment for the umpires and despite Jim Joyce’s bad call last year in Detroit that cost Armando Galarraga the perfect game, to use replay on out/safe calls won’t solve a lot of problems either. A player can look like he beat the tag sliding into a base or home plate, but the camera can miss that the player slid over the base or the fielder did not quite have his foot on the bag. What replay should do is correct egregious mistakes, but not to get involved in every play.
Finally, for people concerned about slowing down the game as umpires look at a replay, it is not going to be that big of a problem. It is not like the NFL where there are coaches challenges every game. The situations that come up, that would qualify, don’t occur all that often. Fans will tolerate an occasional delay if they know the umpires are correcting a really bad mistake.
There is a whole world out there filled with exciting technology. Baseball, welcome to it.
Do you agree with Daniel? Post your comments below.
Daniel I. Dorfman is a local freelance writer who has written and reported for the New York Times, Philadelphia Inquirer and the Boston Globe among many other nationally prominent broadcast, online and print media organizations. He is also a researcher for 670 The Score. You can follow him on Twitter @DanDorfman To read more of Daniel’s blogs click here.