Just 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!