Call For Action: MLB Should Expand Instant Replay Use or Ditch It Completely

Joe MorganSenior Analyst IJuly 22, 2009

When Minnesota Twins outfielder Michael Cuddyer was called out at home plate in a 14-13 loss to the Oakland Athletics Monday, a great uproar arose from the play.

Although Cuddyer clearly crossed the plate before being tagged by A's reliever Michael Wuertz, the call was irreversible because MLB's instant-replay policy only judges home runs.

Granted, MLB's decision to implement instant replay at all is a great move that can help the game continually evolve and most importantly, get every call right.

However, while the process of gradually expanding instant replay is a viable option, MLB needs to consider what is at stake if replay is not expanded to include "safe or out" plays.

While some may deem Monday's occurrence an isolated incident, the capacity of instant replay demonstrated in other sports will only increase pressure for its expansion in baseball.

In addition, considering Minnesota's current standing in the AL Central (2.5 games behind the first-place Detroit Tigers), this one play may dramatically affect their season.

Granted, it's a long season with 162 games, but tell that to Dusty Baker and the 1993 San Francisco Giants.

San Francisco, despite winning 103 games, finished one game behind the first-place Atlanta Braves, thus causing them to miss the postseason.

Admittedly, the playoff race is much different now because of the wild card berth, giving second-place teams like the '93 Giants a chance to play October baseball. 

However, the Twins will likely not come close to the wild card with the Tampa Bay Rays, the Boston Red Sox, and the Chicago White Sox all vying for the coveted spot.

However, the instant replay issue is much bigger than the Twins' playoff chances this season.

What would happen if a play similar to the Cuddyer-Wuertz incident were to occur in a World Series game?

Then, not only does it affect the outcome of the game, but it also has an impact on the momentum of the series, as well as which team will be the World Series Champions.

Now, baseball purists and traditionalists balk at the concept of instant replay in the game, arguing that the possibility of human error adds to baseball's charm.

Additionally, others argue that instant replay could make games, which already last an average of three hours, even longer than they already are.

All things considered, they may be right.

Perhaps instant replay has no place in baseball and trying to make it fit is a fruitless and pointless venture.

While instant replay would significantly help the determination of whether a home run is fair or foul and whether a player is safe or out, it also presents possible problems.

In addition to increasing the length of games, instant replay might eventually be used to judge balls and strikes, a possibility that would not bode well for the tradition of baseball.

Commissioner Bud Selig and MLB are at a major crossroads, faced with a difficult decision that involves the effect of technology on the future of umpiring in baseball.

Baseball needs either to go all-in with instant replay or to rid the game of it entirely.

Commissioner Selig must realize that he cannot simply go halfway and be done with the whole issue.

Selig has made gambles before, both good (creating the Wild Card) and bad (giving the All-Star Game winner home-field advantage in the World Series).

It is time for him to gamble once more, and he must go all-in either way.

If Selig does decide to employ the use of instant replay completely in baseball, it must be carefully controlled.

For example, managers would receive only one challenge per game and balls and strikes cannot be challenged (checked swings bring up an almost entirely new discussion).

However, if he should decide not to use instant replay, MLB should prepare to face the backlash from fans and more occurrences similar to the Cuddyer-Wuertz incident.

The ramifications that could result from either decision would undoubtedly change the outlook of the game, as well as significantly impact its growth.

One option could alienate select fans and spread baseball to new demographics while the other stunts the growth of the game, but appeases the current fan base.

The decision is not easy, but it is yours, Commissioner Selig.

Choose wisely.


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