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Instant Replay in Baseball: Give Me a GOOD Reason

There are a number of sports that you can still listen to on the radio and know exactly what’s going on.

There are a number of sports that are so fast paced that TV is the only way to watch, and the plays are so hard to follow even for officials, that “photo finish” or “instant replay” technologies have been incorporated into the professional versions of the sports to ensure fairness.

That is, except for Baseball.

Until now.

I don’t like to bore people with all of my pass-times, but I love watching a good baseball game.  One of my favorite things about baseball is the fully engaged human element.  4 officials on the field, with final authority on any call (although there are some options available for protesting calls).  Most of the time, a complaint by a player or manager leads to some spectacular fireworks (Bobby Cox is one of my favorites to watch get heated up), but these disagreements seldom last long.  The game continues on at it’s nice, leisurely pace.  It’s not a hard sport to follow or officiate (usually), although I have the highest regard for the men who make the calls.

I was surpriesd to hear they gave in [1] this week.

That’s right, Major League Baseball Umpires have agreed to the use of “instant replay”, perhaps starting yet in August.   From ESPN:

Replays will be limited to boundary calls, such as determining whether fly balls were fair or foul, or whether they went over fences.

Umpire crew chiefs will determine when replay will be used and will make the final decisions on calls. Up to three umpires will be able to look at the replays, which will be provided from a “war room” at Major League Baseball Advanced Media in New York.

I thought that the player’s strikes in past years would be the end of Baseball… of course, it’s entertainment, so it will never lose it’s appeal even during bad times.

But this change will be the start of an indellible mark on a sport that has maintained a rich tradition for over 100 years.  My boss lamented, and I agree, that once this starts, the whole game will be up for grabs with instant replay, and soon the game will take 3.5 to 4 hours to complete instead of the current 2.75 hours or so.

Every Little League is going to want to incorporate the same technology to ensure “fairness”.  Soon, players will become so focused on ensuring they make plays perfectly that we will lose the beauty of a smooth double-play and then strikes will be determined by a computer.

If you think I exaggerate the effect of the slippery slope, take a look at other things in the world where we “just need a little, and won’t go any further”.  Legalized gambling.  Rules around collective bargaining.  Income tax Withholding.  The Social Security Fund’s isoloated status (it wasnt’ ever supposed to be used to cover general fund management, but continues to be to this day).

Adolf Hitler took advantage of the effect of the slippery slope.  Children do it all the time.  It’s the bane of every gambler, drug addict, alcoholic, day-trader, and politician.

I know I’m going to sound like an old curmudgeon, but why can’t they just leave some things alone?