I try not to use foul language on this blog. That’s not because of some edict from on high (the Score Towers) or because I found the Lord Jesus Christ (space daddy’s son). I simply want the blog to appeal to as many reasonable minded people as possible, and I’m aware that a large chunk of reasonable minded people don’t like obscene language.

Personally, I don’t mind it, but I understand how it can weaken an argument or sometimes seem like a juvenile crutch.

One of the benefits of not often writing swear words is that when I do, it tends to have more of an impact. Take for instance the statement that Major League Baseball’s Executive Vice President for Baseball Operations Joe Torre just released in response to the horrible call that ended last night’s Pirates / Braves game in the 19th inning.

As a member of the Commissioner’s Special Committee for On-Field Matters, I have heard many discussions on umpiring and technology over the past two years, including both the pros and the cons of expanding replay.  However, most in the game recognize that the human element always will be part of baseball and instant replay can never replace all judgment calls by umpires.

Are you goddamn shitting me? “Most in the game?” What does that even mean? “The human element?” This is the straw man you’re going to pull out in order justify an archaic stance against video replay for something as simple as safe/out calls?

No one is asking for the precious human element to be removed from baseball games. No one wants to take calling balls and strikes away from umpires. What people are talking about is allowing umpires to use technology in order to make accurate calls on close safe/out plays. It’s simple. So simple, that I really, truly don’t understand what I’m missing here.

I’m not asking this facetiously or trying to come across as arrogant, but can someone please provide me with a logical reason why close safe/out plays shouldn’t be looked at through video replay?

What makes baseball interesting is its rules. Without any rules at all, it wouldn’t be interesting. Subjective enforcement of said rules lessens the meaning behind the purpose of playing the game. Doesn’t baseball already have enough randomness at play without validating subjective and fallible rulings when it absolutely doesn’t have to?

Comments (22)

  1. The one logical sticking point I know of with replay is the fact that a call can have impact on the still continuing play. If a third out is called but there are other runners still moving around and then replay overturns the call, where do the runners go? Pretty sure that could be worked out or players can be told to continue the play if new replays were to be allowed.

  2. I think if it’s just safe/out calls, it means that the ball was already in the infield when the play happened. It’s rare and unlikely that many plays would continue after a safe/out call was made, no?

  3. Bud Selig would give you an answer, but he’s currently taking a nap.

  4. In all honesty, this has been the worst umpiring in a season I’ve ever seen, in some 15 years of watching ball. And I don’t mean close calls, those happen. I mean, clearly, easily, my imaginary dog could have told you, simple calls. There was one during the Yankees game today where the dude was out by an entire step. They kept showing the replay and I couldn’t figure out why… until I saw that he was safe. The Pirates call was horrendous, and someone lost a perfect game last year to simple idiocy.

    Hell, I don’t care. If you’re worried about it slowing down the game, only make it possible on (possible) inning ending outs, and in the 9th inning and beyond. That way major, game changing calls can be dealt with appropriately.

  5. First and third, two out. Runner goes on first. Catcher throws to 2b, runner on 3rd gets late break. Runner called out at 2b. Replay shows he was safe.

  6. James has a very good point. The other 3 sports all have the events of a given play unfold in a vacuum. Baseball does not. A goal scored or not, a pass caught or dropped, or a Shot made at the buzzer or a second too late can easily be replayed since the decision being reviewed is the only play that occurred.

    But I suppose the plays in question do not happen that often. And assigning all runners an extra base or something to that effect may alleviate the problem.

  7. Baseball needs to be shamed into doing the right thing obviously (steroids, gambling, drunk driving, etc.). Someone needs to compile the on-going list of plays obviously wrong on replay and post it on the net. As well, the pressure point should be publicly questioning the intention of umpires then. As Damien Cox would put it, the question has to be asked if these umpires are betting on the games or are they just being bribed? Answer the question, Mr. Selig, DO YOU KNOW THAT YOUR UMPIRES ARE NOT BLOWING CALLS FOR THEIR OWN BENEFIT. For shame, sir, FOR SHAME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  8. Throw it in baseball’s face: Mr. Selig, how do you know you do not have a Tim Donaghy problem?

  9. I never understood why fielders slap tag and then show the umpire the ball as if that means anything. tag and hold the glove on the player so it’s obvious you tagged him. otherwise you are just asking the umpire to screw up the call.

  10. I think that one issue is the amount of time that video replay would add to the length of games. Yeah, that’s a weak excuse, but there is a little bit of truth to it. Also what exactly is a “close” play? We don’t want a situation where all stolen base attempts are reviewed, or where a failure to review a close call is as hotly debated as the call itself.

    • I think the issue of adding length to games is easily addressed by the fact that managers come out onto the field to argue about any close call anyway, delaying the game more than a review ever would.

  11. there are a lot of other factors in play here. you have a 70 year old commissioner who thinks the transistor radio is new technology. you have old umpires who’s eyesight is diminished and get tired after 6 hours and want to go home. the fact is old people don’t like technology so until you get a new young commissioner nothing will change.

  12. We must keep the human element in baseball!

    However, the human element I want to keep and accentuate are the motherfucking players. I want the human element of plate discipline to be based solely on the individual batter’s ability to determine what is a ball and what is a strike without factoring in the umpire’s strike zone. The same works for the pitcher.

    Whether it be a robot, assistive technology + umpire, whatever…the human element I give a shit about are the players. Case closed.

  13. How hard would it be to put in a system akin to the NFL’s? Let’s say one challenge per team that can be used on anything minus balls and strikes. If the play is overturned the team gets a second challenge, but no more than that. It won’t make games any longer, since as previously stated, it’ll eliminate managers and umpires arguing. It will also allow umpires to still do their job, just with an added safety net for potentially game changing plays. With the number of minor league teams available, I don’t see why they don’t at least try something like this in the minors to see how it’ll work out.

  14. It would be fairly simply and not very time-consuming to have a 5th umpire sitting a booth overlooking the field. The crew chief signals to him, and he (or she, why not, it could be a woman, no need for showers) reviews the play on video, in slow mo, from multiple angles, etc. and renders a decision. When this is done by TV broadcasters it takes about 30 seconds at worst. And you don’t have to have multiple minutes of managers out there arguing to no avail.

    Should it be done on every play? Probably not. But teams should not lose games because of incorrect calls.

    And gals could be the umps in the booth! Free Pam Postema!!

  15. With umpires so seemingly beyond accountability, how well do we know that they’re above bribes for intentionally calling games poorly? I’m not saying it’s necessarily happening, but without any sense of accountability, it’s hard to trust. And with SO MANY terrible calls this year, maybe “the question needs to be asked”.

  16. Here is the strongest argument in favour of having replays to correct an umpire’s incorrect call: it makes the umpire’s safer. Consider that Jerry Meals, and his FAMILY, have been harassed and received death threats because of the blown call. I’m not saying it would ever actually happen, that an umpire or their family would ever be killed or physically harmed, but I wouldn’t put it past some nutjob of a fan to do something stupid.

    Keep everyone calm and civilized, and allow a safety net in the system that can catch an umpire’s mistake. Especially BIG mistakes in important games.

  17. I’m a limey Jays fan and we’ve seen replay come into two events over here in the UK over the last few years.

    i) Tennis at Wimbledon – each player gets 2 appeals, if they appeal correctly they still have two appeals, if wrong they lose 1 until they have no appeals.

    ii) Test Cricket – each team has two appeals per innings, batsman can appeal against a decision that he was out or a fielding team can appeal that he was out when given not out. With me so far? The extra bit here is that there are times when it is unclear, even with replay. The fourth umpire or tv umpire will in that case declare “Umpire decision” and the original call will stand.

    I would say that each call takes perhaps 1-2 minutes at the most, and in fact gets the crowd more involved as they wait for the jumbo screen to announce the decision.

    Yes we were worried that it would devalue the work of the umpires, but it was just a concern that doesn’t seem to have materialised… and worse case you expose umpires who aren’t doing a good job.

    I think something like they have in cricket would definitely work with Baseball for close calls running the bases and for fair/foul calls.

  18. The truth is there are an infinite amount of possibilities of how a play can end up, even a simple safe/out call. That’s why we love baseball. I’m not saying this couldn’t be worked out, I’m just saying there are many different variables to take into account.

    That said, I’m for the fifth man in video replay booth. The video replay would be done before the next batter comes up. We have that currently pretty much on TV. The only area I wouldn’t is with fair/foul calls. That’s because I support Hawkeye technology for that (see tennis). If a ball is fair after being called foul it’s a ground rule single/double depending on how far it went.

  19. The technology exists. There are a myriad of examples of how to make it work within the rules. You can try to poke holes in it – but you can do that with every other sport’s replay as well. That said – I could drive a bus through the holes in the argument for NOT implementing replay. The picture at the top is Exhibit A. I have no idea why some people think that there is a redeeming quality of blown calls to the game.

  20. Actually, there is already a backup in place, but it would require umpires to swallow their pride a bit. When there is a close call that is argued, the umpire can as other people on his crew to appeal. On that play, the home plate ump could have asked the 1st base ump for a decision. On a play like that, the play would have been easily overturned, the homeplate ump a little embarrassed, but the right call being made. Perhaps the answer is for umps to be encouraged to conference more often.

  21. I agree with Mats Naslund. You can poke holes in any review system, but its a lot easier to poke holes in the current system with very fallible umpires. At least with reviews, the worst situation that can arise is where a play is so close that its not clear what happened. The worst that can happen having “the human element” of no reviews is that an umpire gets a CLEAR play wrong.

    Personally I don’t care how long the game takes, and how long it would take to do a review. The important thing is to get the calls right as much as possible, and the current system doesn’t allow for that.

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