Topics That Should Have Been Tackled Months Ago: Should Baseball Expand Instant Replay Beyond Home Runs?

Would more instant replay help the boys in blue?

After a postseason filled with inexplicable mistakes (not the least of which was the Yankees winning the World Series) Major League Baseball and its umpires came under intense and deserved scrutiny for their handling of crucial calls in the playoffs. No series was exempt from questionable rulings, including the one-game playoff between the Twins and Tigers, but the biggest gaffe came in Game Two of the ALDS between New York and Minnesota. With the score tied 3-3 in the bottom of the 11th Joltin’ Joe Mauer stepped up to the plate and laced an apparent double down the leftfield line. Though replays clearly showed that the ball glanced off outfielder Melky Cabrera’s glove and landed in fair territory, umpire Phil “Beer” Cuzzi ruled the ball foul and effectively handed the game to the Yankees, who scored in the bottom of the inning to take a commanding 2-0 series lead. Would the course of history been changed if baseball had used instant replay to make the correct call? Is the Yankees’ title forever tainted? Does MLB need to expand instant replay beyond homeruns in order to avoid further embarrassment?  

No, no and no. As much as it pains me to say it, the Yankees were the best team in baseball last season (and will presumably be in 2010) and would have won the World Series with or without help from the umpires (though some have speculated that A-Rod sold his soul to the devil for one good postseason). As for expanding replay beyond just homeruns, it might help baseball’s image in the short-term, but a knee-jerk reaction to one postseason would undoubtedly hurt the sport more than it would help it. 

We might not like 'em, but umpires are an important part of the game.

Despite the findings of a recent study which showed that there is more live action in a MLB game than there is in an NFL game (12:22 vs 12:08 minutes with the ball in play), baseball is viewed by and large as a “slow” sport. By adding replays to calls at the bases and along the foul-lines, baseball would further alienate fans who prefer the fast paced action of basketball or football. If baseball is intent on adding more replays (Bud Selig is not keen on the idea but he might not be the commissioner for much longer) the sport will have to find additional ways to speed the game up (less trips to the mound, less chances for a batter to step out of the box, etc.) to compensate for the extra time added with each replay. 

In addition to making baseball games longer expanding replay would also take away the unique place in sports occupied by umpires. In baseball, more than any other professional sport, umpires are intertwined with the game and its players. While they might not quite rival Leslie Nielson’s portrayal in the Naked Gun, each umpires signature “strike” or “out” call add an element to baseball that help to make it America’s pastime. Mistakes by umpires are an inherent part of the game, and reviewing every questionable call with replay would turn baseball from something organic into something mechanical—further distancing the sport from its origins. More often than not, umpires make the correct calls, and one bad postseason doesn’t warrant tearing apart the fabric of the game to appease a few offended parties.

Let’s leave replay to football and keep baseball from making a change it will inevitably regret. After all, if we don’t have umpires to blame for losing games, who are we going to point the finger at? Ourselves?

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One Response

  1. I’m torn on this issue – I think instant replay in all scenarios except balls/strikes could speed up the game because it could allow a quick review instead of a prolonged temper tantrum by the managers (arguments now are like end-zone TD celebrations and slam dunk contests anyways: tough to get creative anymore). So I think there is a benefit to it, but would the purity of the sport be compromised if a full-out replay is implemented ? This is where I have to agree with Bud – the human element to baseball makes it what it is -and hasn’t it had enough issues with non-human elements in the past decade anyways…??

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