Booze, Baseball, and another "B"

Friday, October 14, 2005

Instant Replay? No way....

As I was watching ESPN's "Outside the Lines" last night, I started thinking about their debate about whether or not the MLB should have instant replay.

The tone of the show, and particularly host Bob Ley, was one of "everyone else is doing it, so baseball should too."

This argument is problematic at best. We all know from our Philosophy 101 class that arguments based on a majority being right are not logically correct. On top of that, baseball is a different sport, with different referees.

In the NFL, I was very much in favor of Instant Replay. They needed it badly (take Vinny T's "helmet touchdown" against Seattle, which kept them out of the playoffs), and the NFL is better for having it. But something the people on ESPN don't really talk about, I believe that the quality of officiating in the NFL has gone down due to Instant Replay. I don't think that it's a conscious decision on the part of the refs, but I think that somewhere in their heads they know that if they flub the call, the Instant Replay will get it right. And that isn't even how it always turns out. This year there have been quite a few reviewed plays which the refs still get wrong.

Why doesn't Instant Replay fit baseball? For one thing, baseball is a game that goes by its own pace. There is no clock (other than those the sleeping fans are watching), something which all of the other major sports have. Baseball's umps also are different than other games' officials. The umps in baseball are like airplanes. Usually nothing goes wrong with them, and they just go about their job, there's little to worry about, and nobody says anything about them. But when something does go bad, everyone freaks out about it. Usually the umps in baseball are very correct. I can't explain what happened in the game between CHI and LAA (other than I think it was a massive error by the umps), but that one episode doesn't mean that they should forget all of the times the umps are right.

Baseball is also a game of tradition. Many people both in the game and outside of it would be very opposed to instant replay, including the Commissioner, who has final say! People freaked out when MLB was talking about having Spider-Man 2 logos on bases, for one weekend, before the release of the film! There was such an outcry about taking away from the integrity of the game, that MLB decided not to have the logos on the bases. Part of the game of baseball is errors. Whether it's players screwing up a catch or a throw they should have made, managers telling their players to shift and the hitter "hitting it where they ain't," or umps missing a call, errors are a part of baseball. Mike Scioscia, Angels manager, even after the poor call against the White Sox, still does not want instant replay in baseball.

And to make matters even worse, nobody has a good proposal on what instant replay should be used for in baseball! Balls and strikes? Foul versus fair? And take a case like the other night, was that a case of a missed strike call, or was that something else? Could that call have even been reviewable? The very play that is making all of this controversy, might itself not even be subject to review!

As for my take on the play, the ump rung him up, which makes him out, which takes that game to extra innings. Pierzynski made a smart play in that he confused the ump by running off. I think any other player doesn't make that play, but Pierzynski is a catcher and he was thinking. Was the result right? Absolutely not. He was out, and when the ump got confused, he tried to cover for himself, and the other umps are doing the same thing. That being said, bad calls happen, screw-ups happen, you have to move on. I think it is going to be very interesting to see how the Angels handle themselves for the rest of this series. If they can shrug it off, they might do well (I think the CHI Sox pitching is going to be tough for them); if they can't, they're screwed.

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