I’m rather slow to suggest that trends are occurring based on my perception, or even the perception of the majority of people. My hesitancy is entirely the result of a history of making broad statements unfounded outside of my own opinion, and then embarrassingly learning that what I perceived to be true was entirely false according to something called quantitative evidence.
That’s why I’m disinclined to say something definitive about the number of player and umpire disputes that have occurred so far this season. It seems like a lot, but that could very well be the result of every baseball fan on planet earth subscribing to MLB.tv or visiting baseball blogs that provide video and animated GIFs of the incident. Having every on field argument on demand makes it a lot harder to forget about than merely reading an occurrence in a game summary the day after it happend, or seeing it once in a highlight package on a sports news broadcast.
But it does seem that way, and maybe in an age when seeming is often more important than reality, that seeming will cause Major League Baseball to consider expanding its use of video replay to safe/out calls, foul balls, dead balls and all other kind of balls. Falling short of robot umpires calling balls and strikes, it’s difficult for a rational person not to support the use of a tool that ensures better accuracy while minimizing the time it takes to get a call right.
However, there is one hurdle to such action that isn’t talked about that much.
Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports writes the following in his most recent column for the website:
Much of Selig’s reticence [to video replay] has to do with his romantic attachment to old-time baseball – which, you know, didn’t have one wild card (or two), an All-Star game that “counted” and interleague play. There’s the financial factor, too. A football source said the NFL spends about $4 million a year on instant replay. With almost 10 times as many games, new equipment and a fifth umpire with each crew to monitor the replay booth, MLB’s annual costs could go well into eight figures.
It’s not cheap to get things right.
It would be interesting to compare the cost of the NFL’s method for instant replay (on the field) to the NHL’s (centralized video room). If the purpose of video replay is to make a call with as little bias and as much accuracy as possible, I think I prefer the NHL’s method, even if it means a couple extra minutes. I would think that someone using video replay should not only be an expert on the rules of the game, but also an expert at video replay. They should have an understanding of perspective and framing and camera angles that’s superior to that which an umpire might possess.
Anyway, it does seem a little bit ridiculous that implementing replay would induce prohibitive costs considering the financial success that MLB has found in recent years under Selig. However, the notion is less ridiculous to me than a “romantic attachment to old-time baseball” getting in the way of ensuring accuracy.
And after all, is there a cost more imaginable than losing an important game on a blown call that could’ve been easily corrected if the will to do so was there?