By Tim Baffoe-
(CBS) We Americans pride ourselves on our ability to make everything and anything convenient. Check that, maybe it isn’t pride we have so much as an addiction.
DVR. On Demand. Double Cheese. Dollar menu. Podcasts on smartphones. “RealDolls” that disgusting freaks can treat as domestic partners instead of having a genuine, miserable relationship like normal people. Express shipping. Redbox. Pizza delivery (duh). Minute Rice. People who show up and haul away our garbage or put out our house fires.
Laziness is ingrained in our culture. Take those away from society and you’ll have riots in the streets. Obese, heavy-breathing riots.
There’s a similar reaction among baseball fans when it comes to adding instant replay. “Games are too long already! Don’t inconvenience my viewing experience!”
Know what inconveniences my viewing experience? The other excuse against instant replay—the mighty “human element.”
Subjectivity in sports sucks. I understand that it’s impossible to completely remove the nonobjective in sports, but minimizing it for the sake of getting it right, not accidentally affecting a game and perhaps a season and perhaps a person’s future paycheck should be penultimate for the brass of any pro sports organization.
Never has that been more evident than the 2012 Major League Baseball season. I respect umpires a ton (and referees)—their jobs are difficult, and rarely if ever are they praised for being competent, which they usually are. But they the human element are imperfect, thus making the game very imperfect.
I don’t want a sport I love to be willfully imperfect. If you do, I think you’re a bad fan.
The only reason any fan remembers an umpire’s or referee’s name is for nefarious reasons (with the exception of a random cult hero like Ed Hochuli). Jim Joyce rewrote history and humbly admitted it. Joe West is famously a massive assclown.
Deadspin has tongue-in-cheekly started a series this year called “Better Know An Umpire” in order to “… educate ourselves on the human elements who have ultimate decision-making power over some 2,500 Major League Baseball games a year,” a not-so-subtle plea for more expanded replay in the game. The series comes in the wake of what has been one of the tougher years for umpires, as hardly a week has gone by without one or more extremely controversial calls.
Tuesday night furthered the bad ump saga. Anyone watching Chrizzomas saw a pretty poor call by Manny Gonzalez. (That link features a cameo from a very mediocre sports blogger, by the way.) My first reaction was that Gonzalez had made a makeup call for an earlier questionable pickoff play where Bryan LaHair was called out.
This brings up another awful aspect of the human element—the make up call. Umps and refs know when they blow a call by the reactions of players, coaches, and the crowd. Jumbotrons and TVs scattered around stadiums that show replays certainly help to incite reaction against officials. And then it’s all too common that shortly after a blow call another call is made that goes in favor of the team originally slighted, a call that either didn’t need to be made or is just wrong.
How does that make your game better? How do the crowd reaction or players and coaches complaints affecting later calls—essentially intimidation—make your game better?
But Gonzalez’s blown call wasn’t even Tuesday night’s biggest umpire error.
Dewayne Wise was credited with defensively recording an out in the Yankees/Indians game without catching the ball
Now, I would understand umpire Mike DiMuro signaling “out” had he seen Wise dive into the stands and arise from the mess of bodies and hold up the ball, even if Wise picked the ball up from the concrete while being lifted up by fans. But DiMuro didn’t even check for a ball, a ball Wise never possessed.
The human element, folks.
Baseball has replay to a small extent already, but it’s nowhere near sufficient enough to make the game as correctly-called as possible. The ability for umpires to review home runs has been little more than a placebo for fans pushing for the game to be more technologically sound.
Replay was used five times—FIVE—in the 2011 season. Whoopee. Meanwhile, there were dozens of wrong calls made by umpires that affected the outcomes of games.
One of baseball’s biggest problems is its false sense of superiority over other sports and sports fans’ opinions. The other major sports have made advances in replay with little to no complaints by the nonstupid. Many in baseball would scoff at this and argue tradition and genuineness and other examples of willful ignorance and stupidity.
Being a dinosaur on purpose isn’t cool. It’s asinine.
Every play on a batted ball should be subject for review. Every catch, every play at a base, every ball that flirts with the fair/foul chalk. Baseball doesn’t stand to benefit in any way otherwise.
Not balls and strikes, though. I’ll let the umps have that, even though no two umps have the same strike zone. You traditionalists get your human element there.
I don’t care if extensive replay makes the games last seven hours—which it won’t, so cut that bad argument out, too. Has replay made other major sports Russian fiction-length? Odd that the same “purists” who get all giddy over a game that last eighteen innings will complain about potential game length.
Want it totally simplified? Let the game’s official scorer review the play on a monitor. They already make judgment calls on errors—and are sometimes wrong. Give them all the angles we at home get to see, and let them have the final ruling.
I know it would be damn near treason to do something modeled off of another sport, but give managers the challenge flag a la NFL coaches. Limit their number of challenges per game. Maybe have all controversial plays in the eighth inning and later be “booth review” only.
It works in the NFL, and there’s nothing wrong with baseball swallowing its dumb antiquated pride and acknowledging that what works is better that what has always been. Anything less is promoting that your sport gets things wrong and likes it.
Replay is progress. Advances in technology have helped us progress as a society almost since its founding despite the resistance of traditionalist blockheads. It’s time for baseball to be part of a constantly advancing society, to get it right.
And then it needs to not make me buy an admission ticket for my RealDoll.
Tim Baffoe attended the University of Iowa and Governors State University and began blogging at The Score after winning the 2011 Pepsi Max Score Search. He enjoys writing things about stuff, but not so much stuff about things. When not writing for 670TheScore.com, Tim corrupts America’s youth as a high school English teacher and provides a great service to his South Side community delivering pizzas (please tip him and his colleagues well). You can follow Tim’s inappropriate brain droppings on Twitter @Ten_Foot_Midget, but please don’t follow him in real life. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. To read more of Tim’s blogs click here.