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?

Comments (19)

  1. I’m against anything that makes games longer, and I really believe this is the real reason MLB is hesitant to expand instant replay. As it is they are already concerned about the length of the games.

    • When you go to a baseball game, you’re likely in it for the whole 3+ hours. That’s the nature of the game. The time shouldn’t matter if you were a real baseball fan.

      If it does, please never watch or attend a baseball game ever again.

      • I guess I’m not a real baseball fan LOL!

        I have a wife have two kids (age 1 and 4), I don’t get to go to baseball games anymore. My real complaint is how late baseball games can go and because of my advanced age (37) and toll my kids take on me, I want to go to bed at a reasonable time.

        • That’s cool you have all that (I’m not being sarcastic). Maybe calling you out as “not a real” fan was a bit much but you’re totally stupid. Your PERSONAL reasons why you want the game to be faster is ridiculous at best.

          An analogy: Baseball is like Bollywood movies. You know they are going to be 3 hours long and they are definitely longer than Hollywood movies but that’s just part of watching a Bollywood film. Don’t want to sit through a 3 hour movie, don’t watch it.

          (If you don’t know what Bollywood is or never watched a film, then you won’t understand. Also, I’m East Indian so I know what I’m talking about. I also know there’s horrible acting/wretched dancing so save your clever comments for someone who isn’t me).

          • LOL! Calling me out as ‘stupid’ is much better :)

            I care about the health of the game, and given the next generations short attention span, making the games longer probably isn’t the best strategy. Me personally, I could watch baseball all day long, but I realize that I’m in the minority.

    • Would it really make the game longer? Because as it stands, managers go out on the field and argue calls all the time. I think they should introduce video replay and eliminate managers arguing. So, they can have one or the other. As soon as a manager steps on the field for the sake of arguing, he’s immediately ejected. But he can throw a flag or notify the umpire for a replay request a limited number of times each game.

      • Parkes is spot on. In the NFL they have the two-minute review. Why not do the same with baseball?

      • Yes it will delay the game because managers will ask for replays on every close call.

        I’d support automatic review, in that someone is constantly reviewing play of the game, and anytime an umpire gets a call wrong, a call from upstairs automatically reverses the call. Screw this request for review on certain calls, get all the calls right.

    • I think that argument is complete nonsense, we’re talking about making a three hour game (not counting anthems and pre-game tomfoolery) 3 minutes longer (which less than 2% btw) every second game or so when there is a contentious call. It’s really not a big deal.

      As to the subject of the article (i.e. the cost), if they throw some commercials up there during the short break in play during a review I’m sure MLB can make their money back.

      • To clarify I’m disagreeing with Sir Peter DeMarco.

        • I guess it depends on what can be reviewed, but in my mind, what’s the point of having instant replay if only a select few things can be reviewed? We already have this.

          • When I watch a hockey game the less then two minutes it takes to “call up to Toronto” to have the play reviewed by video replay specialists why seeing the reply shown on TV dissected by a few different angles the TV crew has available to them it is a huge sigh of relief that a game changing play was called correctly. Even when it goes against the team i am rooting for I can shrug my shoulders and say “Well it was in, what more can I say”. Instead of blowing my cool and arguing with everyone about how it looked to their perspective. Just get the play called right.

            I also assume since you can’t handle a few extra minutes a game to make sure it is called correctly you turn off the TV when Frasor’s on the mound so you can go clean the kitchen, take the garbage out, change some diapers and quilt a whole blanket in that time since baseball is too long right?

  2. +1 Parkes. You deserved this one.

  3. Yup, Parkes nailed it. Reviewing a play couldn’t possibly take longer than sorting out arguments on the field and dishing out ejections. It would be sad to see the end of the great manager meltdown, but when it’s all said and done it’s more important to get things right for the sake of the game than to have that few minutes of fantastic entertainment.

  4. That cost will no doubt be mitigated by sponsorship.

    “This video review is brought to you by All State. Call All State to make things right.”

    • Well actually the TV network will get that money – which each MLB team should have no hesistancy to mention during TV contract negotiations.

  5. Why is the manager or coach or whomever even allowed to be on the field arguing a call. No other sport allows this to happen without some kind of penalty. Yes the umps suck but come on, in all of the rest of the big 3 there are penalties up to and including ejection for this behavior. Conversely umpire quality needs to be upgraded as well, if that means more technology, or training or whatever then so be it.

  6. I think the solution is to remove the job security of a MLB umpire. Demote the bad ones to AAA just like the bad players. Right now they have a guaranteed job as soon as they make it. They are already graded on each game why not demote the poor ones at the end of each season.

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