Instant Replay in MLB: A Bad Idea
Baseball is the most traditional of all North American sports.
While referees in the NFL and NHL enjoy the benefit of "going upstairs" to review close calls, such a practice has no place in Major League Baseball.
During the 2007 postseason, Manny Ramirez hit what's been called the longest single in MLB history.
Fans of the Boston Red Sox claim Ramirez's drive against the Indians cleared the right field wall and should have been called a home run. The call on the field, however, was that the ball bounced off the fence.
We could study the replay for all eternity, but the fact of the matter is that the umpire ruled that the ball wasn't hit out of the park.
And therein lies the beauty of the game of baseball.
Sure, baseball manufacturers could, say, plant GPS devices in every single ball to end such controversy. Likewise, MLB could deploy laser beams across home plate to call balls and strikes within a thousandth of an inch.
Technically, in fact, umpires could be completely replaced by video cameras and laser sensors—but then we would lose all those quirks that make baseball the greatest sport in the world.
Part of being able to pitch is learning to pick up on the umpire's strike zone. This is a very underrated skill among aspiring hurlers, with many subtle factors involved.
One of the most exciting moments of any baseball game is when a pitcher paints the outside corner with a slider and the ump has to make a call. Technology could tell us every single time whether or not the ball was in the strike zone—but the truth is that only the pitcher and the umpire know the correct call.
Because the call is based in part on the cumulative results of the game to that point—and specifically on the relationship the pitcher has established with the ump.
Baseball is the only sport in which managing the officiating is a legitimate and important part of the game. Umpires, while amazingly accurate on quick plays, do make mistakes. But that's been a great part of baseball for over a century.
There's no reason it needs to change now.
Major League Baseball doesn't allow aluminum bats or spitballs. Why should umpires be allowed to cheat when the players are forced to play by century-old rules?
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