Reporting Jamie Samuelsen
Well, there’s one way to get accountability for the umpires. And it’s pretty damn simple.
The umpires think they see something their way. The players and managers see it differently. They disagree. They argue. Tempers rise. And someone gets ejected. We’ve seen it happen time and time again.
If only there were some way to record these plays on a video device so that the umpires could look at the play a second time just to make sure the play was called correctly. If there were clear video evidence that the umpires could review, maybe more plays would be called correctly and there would be less tension between the two warring sides. I know. It’s a pipe dream. Modern technology is years, decades perhaps, away from coming up with such a device. So we’re left here in the relative dark ages relying on the naked eye. Managers like Leyland will be mad. Umpires will try to make themselves the stars and nothing will change. If only we could fast forward to the future and invent something like instant replay for baseball. It’s weird that they’ve invented it for football, basketball and hockey.
Baseball is as old school as it gets. They tinker with the games in the wrong way like making the All-Star Game count. Then they ignore the ways they could tangibly make the game better like fixing interleague play (or as some fans desire – abolishing it), speeding up the games and adding instant replay. But all too often, baseball sticks its head in the sand and lets the problems get worse. Leyland can sit there and demand accountability. Then he says that he doesn’t favor the one thing that will automatically bring that accountability he desires. Instant replay!
Instant replay is not a magic elixir. Plenty of NFL coaches still argue with the refs. Same in the NBA and the NHL. But when a video replay shows that a puck clearly crossed the line or a wide receiver clearly stepped out of bounds, the arguments tend to be muted. But think about some of the recent blow-ups with the Tigers and think of how replay would have fixed them. If the umpires could have seen the replay of the Justin Masterson play on Thursday, they would have seen that Masterson never came set. No argument. No ejections. If Jim Joyce could have looked at replay after the infamous Armando Galarraga play two summers ago, Galarraga would have had his perfect game and Joyce would be just another umpire.
There are two primary arguments against replay. First, people say that it would take up too much time. Second, it would take the human element out of the game. The first argument at least has merit, although it’s wrong. The second argument is ridiculous.
Baseball games are too long as it is. So adding replay would appear to only lengthen them. But look at the sideshow yesterday when Leyland and Gene Lamont were ejected. Both were justifiably angry. Leyland put on a quite an entertaining show that took up quite a bit of time. But if Bill Welke or crew chief Tim Tschida could quickly get the replay, there would be no need for the miscommunication and no need for the tirade.
MLB doesn’t need the four umpires to march into a dark room to review the play the way they do with home runs. They can employ a replay official up in the booth who can review close plays and let the umpiring crew know what the correct call is. College football does it. The NHL does it. There’s no need to waste everyone’s time. These are billion dollar industries. They can afford to have a replay official at every game. Replay only takes as long as the individual sports let it. I’ve never heard a single fan walk out of an arena after a play was called correctly and complain about the time delay it took to get the call right. Have you?
And as for the human element, that ship sailed years ago. It’s one of the lamest arguments that there is. Humans play the game. Humans coach the game. Humans sit in the stands. And humans officiate the plays. This implication that the game will become robotic just because certain plays will be reviewed (by humans I might add) is stupid.
Here’s another hypothetical. You tell me if this will ever happen or has ever happened in the history of sports.
“Remember that one game where the umpire blew the call and our team lost? Yeah, that was a bummer. But at least it was a human and not a replay camera. I would have hated it if our team won the game because replay was used to get the call correct. That would have really cheapened it.”
It’s unbelievable that we’re having this debate. Instant replay is the vaccine. It’s the combustible engine. It’s the printing press. Will it solve everything? Of course not. Will it make the game better? Of course it will. Will it end this silly bickering between managers and umpires? Yes. A thousand times yes. The solution is at hand. But will baseball do anything about it? No. How could the sport survive losing that vital human element?
I love baseball. But I’m fed up with the inaction. I’m almost hoping that a game, or a series or a championship is decided by an umpiring error. The sport will have egg on its face once again. And it will only have itself to blame for sitting by and doing nothing for so long.