MLB Replay is Coming. Don’t Do It!

cameraJust returned from a nine-inning baseball game between the Washington Nationals and San Francisco Giants.  The Giants won 4-3, both teams combined for only 14 hits, and the game took three hours and 23 minutes to play.  Now I just learned that MLB is considering significant expansion of instant replay for the 2014 season.  Basically every controversial call except balls and strikes will be subject to a manager’s challenge.

Yes, these games will become absurdly long but my main problem with replay is that the rhythm and charm of baseball will no longer depend on the interactions of human beings.  MLB should learn from watching how replay degraded the entertainment value of NFL football and avoid the same mistake.  When you let the camera in the sky make the calls, it renders the referees on the field impotent.  Any time you micromanage an individual, you devalue the individual.  You replace the burden of human judgement on a machine and the human mechanism will eventually rust out because there is no sense of urgency on performing to a high standard.  Ever notice how long it takes NFL refs to make a possession call on a turnover?  They can’t make a quick one because subconsciously, they know they don’t have to!

To provide a truly great product in any sport, you have to trust individuals to do their best and then live with their mistakes and enjoy the human element of the games.  The NFL blundered by trying to be too perfect.  It’s a freakin’ game and people make mistakes!  Now you have refs scared to make a call and 10 minute delays every time a replay is considered.  MLB has resisted this insanity for a long time and I can’t believe they’re heading down the same path.   Commissioner Bud Selig has indicated he thinks replay will actually speed up the game and remove the stigmatization of umpires.  And we are to believe this baloney?  Umpires are tough guys and have been stigmatized to the delight of fans since the game has been played.

Think balls and strikes aren’t next?  Don’t do it MLB!

About Brian Penn

Avid sports fan and golf nut. I am a lifelong resident of the Washington D.C. area and love to follow the local teams. Also worked as a golf professional in the Middle Atlantic PGA for several years and am intrigued by the game to no end. I love to play and practice and am dedicated to continual improvement.
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4 Responses to MLB Replay is Coming. Don’t Do It!

  1. Mark Willen says:

    I couldn’t agree with you more. Just saw a study that the average baseball game includes only 18 minutes of action. The last thing we need is to slow the game down even more..

  2. Brian Penn says:

    Thanks Mark. Seems like replay is inevitable. What might be helpful is if they start timing and penalizing routine actions that add time. Mound visits, stepping out of the batter’s box to adjust gloves, helmets, etc.

  3. Chris Ross says:

    Sorry but can’t say I agree after reading this either. As human beings over the course of recorded time have proven, you can’t trust individuals. We all make mistakes. That’s not a knock on umpires but it’s a knock on the way we are as humans. Replay has shown that costly mistakes are made that cost deserving players and teams victories. I don’t believe that replay has degraded the NFL. It has improved the game by allowing us the ability to rectify mistakes. Thinking of it another way, it saves umpires and referees the absolute embarrassment (see: Jim Joyce) of getting a call so horribly wrong that it defines their careers.

    In terms of slowing down the action, replay is necessary and baseball could do so many other things to increase the speed of play. They could restrict coaches from coming out to talk to pitchers unless they are taking them out of the game. Restrict catchers from going to talk to pitchers more than once per inning. Don’t allow batters to leave the box to fix their batting gloves after every pitch. Ensure pitchers throw the ball within a reasonable time frame. And much more. Replay isn’t the tipping point. There are so many things that can be done by the MLB to improve the game and replay is one of them.

    • Brian Penn says:

      Chris, thanks for your well-reasoned reply. I like your suggestions for speeding up the action in baseball. You are also right that as human beings we all make mistakes; players, coaches, and referees. What do you think of when I say, “Bill Buckner?” Probably not a lifetime .289 hitter with over 2,700 hits, but someone who blew the 1986 world series because of a mistake. He needs to live with that reputation because he’s human. Why would you want to save umpires and referees the absolute embarrassment of rectifying their mistakes when you can’t for players and coaches? You also have to ask why we watch sports and what is the need for trying to be so perfect with the outcomes, given that mistake-making humans are playing, coaching, and officiating? I view sports as entertainment, and yes I get upset when my teams lose, are robbed by bad calls, etc. But they are just games and I don’t live and die with the outcomes good or bad. Is the quest for perfection necessary at the cost of the entertainment value? Great subject for discussion, thanks!

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