Saturday, October 9, 2010

10-9-10: Expanded Replay in MLB Games

It’s ironic for me, as a hockey fan, to argue against expanded use of replay in any sport. The NHL incorporated replays on goals years ago, and it made a world of difference.

But the NHL was smart enough to limit the use of replay to just review of goals. They still rely on officials and linesmen to make calls on penalties, off-sides, icings, and other elements of the game. They realize that the game moves too fast, and nothing beats an official in position to make the call.

It seems that Major League Baseball is hearing more and more calls for the expanded use of replay. They currently only implement review by replay on home run calls. Some journalists are calling for its use during safe and out calls on the base paths.

I recognize that ice hockey and baseball are different in many ways. Baseball, for instance, doesn’t have penalties. They have outs. That’s how the game is measured: 54 outs in a regulation game. 27 per team. Teams are built around not making outs while at bat. Players are paid big money to have high batting averages and slugging percentage. Outs are absolute – not many subjective calls. Either the guy got tagged or he didn’t. Either the ball beat him to the base, or it didn’t.

The problem I have is: who has the best view of the play? It’s quite often the umpire. As video technology improves, it may be possible to find the better angle. But right now it’s very expensive. And you’d have to have it available in all ballparks for every game of the regular season just to be fair (a win is a win). Is it worth the expense right now? I think not.

And what happens to the fans who have grown tired of four hour baseball games? If managers were able to challenge more calls, it would lengthen the game. MLB has been working to shorten games. What incentive would it give to pitchers who are told to hurry up and pitch if they know the game could get delayed for five minutes for a video review of a close play at second base?

Baseball has a lot of appeal for its history. Sure, there may come a day when the technology is readily available, but all of the factors that go into the expansion of replay’s use in game settings must be considered.

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