When did common sense become such a ridiculous tool for officiating professional sports? The ultimate goal of a sports official should be to get all his calls right and let the players decide the outcome on their own while abiding by those calls. However, a recent baseball decision off the field has obviously neglected this ultimate objective.
The subject is Major League Baseball’s newly instituted use of instant replay. This system came into being behind a strong push of Commissioner Bud Selig after a series of home runs or near home runs earlier in the season were ruled incorrectly when the right call was apparent to anyone watching on a television.
With the new use of instant replay, umpires can now check a monitor for any disputed home run.
Replay has been used just once since its installation in the game and worked perfectly with Alex Rodriguez’s monster home run in Tampa Bay being upheld.
This all sounds great, right? Well it is, but why can’t replay be extended to calls other than homers?
After all, if a runner clearly beats out a throw to first or a catcher misses a tag at home plate, shouldn’t those calls be reviewable as well?
Those calls could just as easily decide a game as any home run. Matt Holliday of the Colorado Rockies scored the winning run of last season’s one-game playoff with the San Diego Padres for the National League Wild Card on a sacrifice fly as he slid head-first into home plate. Holliday clearly never touched the plate with his hand as he slid by and, to this day, nearly a year later, still has not hit the said base.
However, umpire Tim Mcclelland called Holliday safe, and that was that. This is how San Diego’s season ended.
After 163 games, it came down to a blown call as Colorado went on to reach the World Series. You can’t tell me that instant replay would not have been beneficial in that situation.
Opponents of broader use of the replay system say it would slow the rhythm of the game, which is already considered far too long by many fans.
They also say America’s pastime should remain sacred and unchanged. These arguments simply hold no ground. Once again, should the goal be to get every call correct and let the players decide the victors on the field? Who cares about tradition if it leads to incorrect outcomes?
MLB was the last of the four major sports to make use of the long-overdue replay technology we have at our disposal today, and it is still lagging behind dramatically.
The NHL has the use of replay on any disputed goals, which are definitely hockey’s most important moments. In the NBA, all buzzer-beating shots and fights that could result in players being ejected are reviewable.
If you are worried about slowing the game, give managers something similar to the NFL’s red flag challenge system. Managers would get two challenges per game, emphasizing the point to use replay on the calls they deem most important. If they win both of their first two challenges, a team could possibly gain a third, just like in football.
One thing must remain untouched and unharmed by instant replay the subjective balls and strikes calls. This is a part of the game that is influenced by human opinions and therefore cannot really be reviewed. For those who think broader use of instant replay will lead down a slippery slope to eventual reviews of the strike zone, it just seems unlikely.
A called strike or ball by an umpire is final and undisputable, and there is no way to definitively look at a replay monitor and say that that pitch was in or out of the strike zone for sure anyway.
However, all other calls should be able to be easily fixed with the use of replay. Was a fly ball caught or dropped? Did a runner miss a base? Was a groundball fair or foul down the line? No matter how long it takes, just make sure the right team wins, no doubt about it!
Waldman is a member of the class of 2010.