In recent days, my aloof and oft persnickety colleague, Mr. Krause, waxed on instant replay in baseball, making assumptions about my demeanor reminiscent of Rush Limbaugh calling out the obese.
Am I “old school” in my baseball philosophy? Yes. You could say that. But just like in any endeavor worth dedicating one’s life to, things change, and adaptations are necessary for survival.
Baseball needs instant replay. There are just too many important calls that get blown that could be remedied with a simple review of the tape. There are countless examples, but the two most devastating of recent memory include the Pirates/Braves 19th inning Jerry Meals fiasco of 2011 and Armando Gallaraga’s perfect game being robbed by Jim Joyce*. These are just two extreme examples, but blown calls happen quite frequently and they could be fixed just as easily as they fixed the home run by review situation.
Sure, baseball is a long, slow paced game. Sure doesn’t seem to stop people from caring about it though! Attendance is up, viewership via TV, computer, smartphone is at an all-time high. Does Mr. Krause seriously think that all the baseball nuts in the world are going to stop watching the game if it’s 5 minutes longer?!?!
Just get the call right. That’s what the fans care about. We want… the umps… TO GET IT RIGHT. That’s it. And now, deeply immersed in all avenues of technocracy, is the time to start implementing some of the modern tools that are there to make things better.
And no, constitutional scholars, this ain’t no slippery slope situation. Balls and strikes are not reviewable. Period.
Hate me ‘cuz I’m grounded in common sense, just don’t hate me ‘cuz I’m right.
*Also, I am still not over Don Denkinger’s blown call from the 1985 Series. Some things take longer to heal.
In football, instant replay makes sense. Even with a team of seven officials covering each play, sometimes you just can’t be in the right place at the right time to make the right call when 22 guys are flying around at super-human speeds. What’s more amazing is how often they get the call right despite those circumstances. When it’s unclear whether or not they get it right, though, instant replay is there to confirm or overturn the call. The game goes on.
Reviewing close plays in baseball is a little more contentious. Generally I’m in favor of the evolution of the game, especially in contrast to my friend, Mr. Lung, who would prefer that all baseball players wear wool uniforms and be issued a chaw of chewing tobacco prior to the playing of the Star Spangled Banner. But official review is one place where I’m not so sure.
The problem is, baseball is already a slow-paced game. If you open it up to review, even that flow gets messed up. Even the limited official review capacity that now exists for home runs seems ridiculous. Either you make all plays reviewable or none at all. Honestly, although I’m all for baseball’s future facing development, review is not an area where I think that makes sense.
Review does make sense in the American Democratic system, though. Last week’s Supreme Court decision on the Affordable Care Act proved that. More surprisingly, John Roberts showed himself to be a model Chief Justice in his Constitutional application and limited justification in the majority opinion. For me, it’s telling that although most Republicans are angry that the law was upheld, they’re not angry at Justice Roberts. In fact, he basically made it clear in his decision that although he may not agree with the policy aspects of the law, that it met the necessary threshold to be held constitutional.
That’s one of the beautiful things about our sometimes maddening and often baffling system of government. Laws get checked at three points by three different bodies and only after that process runs it course does the law go into effect. Granted, the application of the same system to baseball would mean that individual games could continue indefinitely but that’s why the choice of arbiter is so important. The Supreme Court doesn’t hear every single case that comes up through the courts or face challenges to every single law passed by Congress. It only deals with the game-changers, events that can redefine precedent or application or laws that are unclear.
Football is similar. Coaches choose when to throw the challenge flag and generally save it for events that are unclear, that could change the complexion of the game or that seem completely erroneous to them. They don’t always win but they at least have the option to challenge the initial ruling.
That’s one of the big areas where review in baseball fails. Yes, it’s not awful to review homeruns to make sure they were fair or be absolutely certain that a fan didn’t interfere. I’m sure there are quite a few Baltimore Orioles fans who wish that review had been in place in the 90’s. But what about that phantom final out of Armando Gallaraga’s almost perfect game? If Leyland had been able to challenge the ruling, Gallaraga would have had the mark and we wouldn’t still be talking about it. But, if you start making plays like that reviewable, it’s not long before you have to start making called strikes, check-swings and everything else reviewable, too. The fact of the matter is, it just isn’t feasible and if you can’t do it right, you shouldn’t be doing it all.
Here’s how I’d call it. Review: good for football, great for government but bad for baseball.
And so in this Podcast…
Jeff and Johanna clink Tanqueray and tonics over a (not-so) serious discussion of Atlanta’s rerise to fame, Sweet Lou’s gunt, Feliz Hernandez’s magical ways and much, much more… including a special guest appearance by comedy genius Tracy Morgan! Get out the Kleenex, y’all, ‘cuz tears of joy are on the way!
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Subscribe to the RSBS Podcast by clicking *HERE*
Subscribe via iTunes by clicking *HERE*
*Special thanks to Keith Carmack — our engineer, director, editor and all-around sound guru. Check out his Undercast podcast and visit his movie-making website Undercard Films if you know what’s good for you. I mean, Keith got invited to the Hall of Fame for Pete Hill’s re-induction ceremony. Talk about bein’ connected…
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Recorded Saturday, October 2, 2010
I have been accused by some people of writing too much about Venezuela on this blog. But it’s hard not to write about this wonderfully dysfunctional country when they just keep finding ways to amuse. Now, if Mr. McCain were our president I’m sure he would have already gone in and occupied the country since war is the first and only answer.
However, cooler minds had prevailed up until this point and we had managed to stay out of a p!ssing match with our South American wannabe nemesis.
In the same way I have tried to avoid conflict with my friend and co-blogger, Mr. Lung. I figured that by letting him say what he wanted and not responding, I could avoid the tension and childish escalations that now define the U.S.-Venezuela relationship. In both instances, those days are now behind us. From now on, I will call it exactly like I see it.
Mr. Lung, you are wrong about instant replay. Reviewing disputed home run calls makes the game more just. And the game stops for less time than a commercial break so where’s the continuity problem many opponents have decried? If there were umps down the baselines in the outfield like there are in the playoffs, then you might have an argument. But there aren’t so I’ll have to kindly ask you to go home. You have 72 hours to pack your bags and leave.
Now, I hope this doesn’t provoke some sort of diplomatic incident. I hope you don’t get sick on some sushi and throw up all over my shoes. And I hope you will still continue to sell me your otherwise unrefinable crude oil.
However, if I may be so bold, I would like to make one final effort and extend an olive branch to my once and future friend. And this symbol of peace comes, strangely enough, directly from President Chavez’s rambling diatribe dismissing the US ambassador this week. I think we can all agree on this one thing:
F—ing Yankees indeed.
Instant replay may be here for good but that doesn’t mean I have to like it; nor does it mean I have to support it. Because I don’t.
And I won’t.
Before you get all sassy (Mr. Krause), let me just say that my basis for detesting this technological intrusion is not rooted in science. It does not rely on tangible evidence. It is based on one simple cosmological principle:
The baseball gods are pissed off.
For it is my strong belief that in baseball everything happens for a reason and eventually the inequalities of umpiring decisions (though visible and often game-altering) will be settled at a later time, when appropriate, when it’s most necessary. This is how it has been for over a hundred years — or in other words: a long friggin’ time.
Had the argument against instant replay in baseball not been so stringent in the past perhaps I wouldn’t be so upset about it now; but to maintain the party line for so long only to crumble under the pressure of a few whiny millionaires is quite embarrassing. Baseball is not football. It is not basketball. It is not hockey.
It does not need instant replay — at all. Ever.
Of course, now people like my colleague Mr. Allen Krause have embraced this technology because it will supposedly ensure that each homerun call is made correctly. And though they say it will be reserved only for homerun calls, we all know that you can’t just have one cookie. Before long everything from close plays at first to suspected trappings in the outfield to balls and strikes will soon be up for review by some Geek Squad reject in the New York main office, thus eliminating the human umpire element entirely, not to mention extending what many already consider a game that goes on too long.
This is not good, folks. It’s not good at all. And Mr. Krause, you’re completely wrong in your steadfast embrace of this electronic eye-in-the-sky Pandora’s Box.
You will be sorry. You see, the baseball gods — now raging in their defiance towards this atrocious innovation — have myriad unfinished business in equalizing the poor calls of the past. But now, since MLB has gone against its purist principles, all those yet to be righted face the harsh and difficult reality that they may never see justice on the field again. Fate has been tested and one ought to know better than to mess with fate, or the supernatural.
Just ask Pete Rose.
Ever wonder how a barely-above mediocre Cardinal squad won the 2006 World Series? Ask Don Denkinger. He knows. He took it away from them 21 years earlier.
Ever wonder how a pompous autocrat like me got to write a hit blog? Ask Greg Altmix, my high school baseball coach who sat me on the bench because I couldn’t hit the ball to the opposite field. He knows. I was a pull hitter. You can’t change a pull hitter.
Dear readers, for every wrong there is a right and the baseball gods know exactly what the hell they’re doing.
Call me a purist, call me old-school, call me Suzie… I don’t give a s***. Go ahead. Hate me if you must.
…but don’t hate me ‘cuz I’m right.
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This week saw the introduction of instant reply — a
technocratic advance many still consider blasphemy — in Major League
Baseball. Currently, the only calls
deemed debatable are homerun calls. But now that the surface has been cracked, is it not only a matter of time before
we are reviewing foul balls down the line, close plays at first and dare I say
the strike zone? Where does one draw the
line and how will this impact the overall game?
Ah yes, the ol’ slippery slope argument. If we do “x,” then “y” and “z” must follow. It’s an argument politicians have used for years to hold out against reforming everything from farm subsidies to gun ownership. But, the fact of the matter is that the argument holds no water.
Beyond that, however, is an even more important distinction when it comes to instant replay. The use of replay for this one small area of the game is a huge improvement over the old system.
Just this past week, replay was used to uphold an Alex Rodriguez home run and the game neither came to a screeching halt nor did the ghosts of long dead major leaguers suddenly come flying out of the ground to right some injustice that had been done to their memory. Replay equals innovation and evolution in the game.
In the old system, a bunch of middle aged men who saw the ball’s path from 300 feet away would get together and debate what had happened. Often, they got it wrong. So now, instead of paying the hundreds of thousands of dollars that would be necessary to put extra umps in the outfield, MLB came up with a suitable alternative.
No one who truly calls their self a baseball fan wants to see the abolition of the umpire. The call at home plate in a swirl of dust and dirt is as much a part of the game as the wooden bat and pinetar covered batting helmet.
But instant replay adds to the game. And in fact, in honor of its resounding success during its first week of use, I’d like to see it applied in other places where it’s never been seen before.
For instance, I’d like to see an instant replay of Vice Presidential nominee Sarah Palin’s speech at the Republican National Convention the other evening. Maybe then we can discover how someone who’s views so clearly fall outside the mainstream (creationism taught side by side with evolution?) has become an overnight media darling.
No matter what, instant replay is here to stay along with the DH and All-Star Games that have way too much of an impact on October baseball. Instant replay, though, that’s change we can believe in.
“MLB just handed down suspensions to Joe Girardi, Dusty Baker and Wally
Joyner as a result of recent disputes with umpires. Meanwhile, the umps
blew several calls over the past week, including what should have a
been a three-run homerun by Carlos Delgado last Sunday. Are umps
earning their money and has MLB become overly sensitive to criticism of
“Are umps earning their money…?”
Seriously, Al? You act as if baseball has never seen a controversial call or a heated argument between umpire and manager before. Ejections, game-changing calls — right or wrong — are fundamental aspects of the game, Mr. Krause. They are as natural as the infield-fly rule or the strike-em-out throw-em-out inning-ending double play.
Your questioning of recent events yet again proves your ignorance for what has always been a defining element of the grand game of baseball.
What sets baseball apart from all the rest is that it doesn’t rely on the fast-paced pinpoint accuracy of machines to govern its highly relative rules. As a game that sees its best players fail 7 out of 10 times at the plate, baseball’s umpiring system — which has a much higher success rate — is bound to see a mistake or two during the long season. But to introduce technology (like instant replay) to arbitrate — even if it’s solely used for home run calls — would be nothing short of sacrilege in my point of view, which by the way, is the only correct point of view.
And I’m saying this as an avid proponent for burning down Don Denkinger’s house — still — 23 years after he singlehandedly destroyed my childhood by calling Jorge Orta safe when he was CLEARLY OUT during the 1985 World Series. A few years ago, I was going through some personal issues and while recovering made a list of all those whom I had hurt in some way with the ultimate goal of verbalizing an apology to them. I have said a lot of awful things about Denkinger in my lifetime and I am not proud of them. But when it came time to write an apology to him, the one person whom I hold more contempt for than even Bill O’Reilly, I was unable to reverse my absolute hatred. I even did extensive background research on Denkinger’s life, hoping that it would humanize him in some way that would make me feel bad about the anger I held inside.
But that’s just me. As an adult, I realize that that call was just a part of the game I love so much and that if I changed it, baseball would no longer be the rhetorical love of my life. It’s really as simple as that.
And while the league minimum salary for baseball players is around the $350K mark, the umpiring crews hover around $100K. The best umps in the game might make close to the player minimum, but of course, they’re doing it without any fanfare. They’re doing it while having to be on the road for every game, not just 81 games. They’re doing it while being targeted by angry fans in Chicago, Philadelphia, New York and Detroit. They’re doing it without any attention paid to how good of a game they might call and they’re doing it while being singled out only when they get one wrong, which in the grand scheme of things, isn’t very often.
So they’ve had a bad week. So what. Their bad week pales in comparison to an Eric Byrnes, who is having a terrible season while getting paid over $6.5 million this year or an Eric Gagne, who is getting $10 million for throwing like a batting practice coach. These guys are the ones who aren’t earning their keep. These guys are the ones we should be talking about.
And if for some reason Bud Selig lets these idiots get to him with the whole instant replay institution, I will take to the streets French revolutionary style to ensure that the game stays just the way it is.
I may do it alone, but I will do it because it is right, because I am right. And whether I come out of it dead or alive, please don’t hate me ‘cuz I’m right ‘cuz that’s all I have in this cold, cold world.