Would Instant Replay Ruin Baseball? Derek Jeter Knows It Would, Do You?

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Would Instant Replay Ruin Baseball? Derek Jeter Knows It Would, Do You?
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Jeffrey Maier Made Headlines in 1996 - Instant Replay Would Have Erased the Home Run

It makes me chuckle.  Really, it does.  I sit back and listen to people, both fans and broadcasters whine and moan about instant replay in baseball. 

They point fingers at Derek Jeter’s infamous home run in 1996 against the Baltimore Orioles.  They cast aspersions at Jim Joyce for blowing the call that cost Armando Galarraga a perfect game.  Then there was the uproar about the ball hit by Gaby Sanchez of the Marlins in the ninth inning of a game against the Phillies that was called foul, but was apparently fair. 

Proponents of instant replay in baseball would tell you that these wrongs—and apparently up to 40 percent of other bad calls by umpires would be righted by instant replay.  That the world would somehow be a better place, there would be peace in the Middle East plus we would get the added bonus or cats and dogs playing nicely together. 

All if only Bud Selig and the rest of the staunch traditionalist baseball executives would let go of their ties to over a hundred years of “we do it this way and that’s it” thinking.

I’m going to say it here and now for everyone to read: instant replay in baseball would ruin the game.  Period. 

And I’m going to give you some really good reasons why.  Not all of this is concrete and logical but take it from me, someone who has played at the professional level and been in championship games—instant replay has no place on the field of play. 

Furthermore, I question its use in the NFL.  Anyone watching the Bears versus Lions game last week will tell you that the pass to Calvin Johnson was caught and touchdown.  Well, everyone except Bears fans—of course.  But instant replay took it away.  The human being on the field made the gut call, the correct call.  But the letter of the law took it away. 

It’s a bad rule and the NFL needs to rethink that rule.  But I digress…

The Umpires

Everyone is so upset at the umpires this season.  I listen to broadcasters complain how bad the umpires are—and maybe they are. 

If they are that bad, the answer here is not instant replay, it is fire the umpires and get better ones.  Stop second-guessing and taking the authority away from the people who are paid to be the authority figures on the field. 

The main side effect of continuing this course of action will be to make players and coaches mouthier towards the umpires, which will result in what we are seeing over the past two months of the season. 

Phillies fans love to point fingers and say that Ryan Howard should never have been tossed from the game for looking crossly at Scott Barry then tossing his helmet and bat.  But doesn’t the baseball fan base see that the umpires feel threatened and are acting-out, not unlike a four year-old who has been scolded for bad behavior. 

They are retaliating against the players because everyone is telling them how bad they are at their jobs.  Again, if the umpires are that bad, then fire them and replace them.  But I offer this up to you: they aren’t that bad.  We simply have the technology to remove the human element from the game. 

I have been hosed on a number of calls during high-pressure, game-changing situations through the years in high school, college, and semi-pro ball.  I’ve had strikes called balls, and even had a perfect game turned into a no-hitter because of a bad call at first base. 

That would be enough to make you angrier than a hornet’s nest. 

But when you step back and look at these things a little more objectively you see that more often than not, bad calls go both ways.  A good umpire will make mistakes but he will do it for everyone, not just the Yankees or the Phillies. 

aseball is a game of humanity; it is a game of getting screwed and having the bad call to go your way.  Take that away and it is a totally different game, one I certainly don’t know if I’d be interested in.

The Rhythm

Like it or not, baseball has a rhythm to it.  Watch a batter when he approached the plate. Most professional hitters have a routine; they approach the plate and each at bat identically.  When that sequence of actions gets interrupted the best in the game will step out.  You will see them put that hand up and leave the batters box.  Then you can see them repeat the process of getting into their individual groove

Pitchers are very similar. 

Some pitchers start their process hours before the game, some do it when they step foot on the field and some only do it pitch-to-pitch.  Heck, I remember an interview with Dave Righetti (if you kids don’t know who he is, go Google one of the premier relievers of the 80’s now—ok, you back yet?) who threw a no-hitter for the Yankees on July 4th, 1983. 

He began his career as a decent starter and when asked what his routine was on gameday, he said his routine started the night before with a bowl of spaghetti and bed by eight. 

Ever notice how often batters step out of the box when a pitcher is throwing a great game?  They try to interrupt the pitcher’s rhythm.  What is the point of my rambling about player routines? 

Has anyone watched what happens to a football game when someone “goes to the replay”?  It stops, sometimes for up to 15 minutes.  Have you ever noticed that any time a rain delay goes on for more than 15 or 20 minutes that whomever was pitching often does not come back out? 

The reasons for this are many, but the most compelling are that their rhythm has been interrupted more than usual and their muscles tighten up.  This is a dangerous and game-changing issue for the pitcher and the team.  Any time you stop a baseball game for any length of time and then expect the athletes to just jump back into the fray you risk serious injury.

Not a compelling enough argument?  OK, let’s take the Gallaraga game for example. 

Take a minute and get inside Armando’s head before the blown call.  He knows he is throwing a perfect game, he knows he is close and he also knows that all he has to do is relax and let it come to him.  Galarraga just needs to keep doing what he’s been doing for the previous eight innings and he knows that. 

He’s got his mindset and his rhythm on the mound.  The ground ball was hit, the bad call gets made and Jim Leyland storms out of the dugout demanding instant replay.  The umpires acquiesce and go to the video tape (extra points if anyone can tell me who that is a shout out to!).  Television goes to commercial.  Galarraga stands chatting with Miguel Cabrera kvetching about the call. 

Ten minutes goes by and Gallaraga is ramped up expecting the call to go against him, maybe soft tossing with Cabrera to try and stay loose. Fifteen minutes later the umpires come back, reverse the call, and Comerica Park erupts in joyous celebration that the perfect game remains intact! 

Now, all Gallaraga has to do is get back on the mound and finish it out.  Wow, did I just make getting back into the mindset of a pitcher in the ninth inning throwing a perfect game sound easy?  It’s not.  The odds of throwing a perfect game are minute at best.  The odds of finishing out that perfect game after that call are next to zero. 

A pitcher’s ability to come down off that emotional rollercoaster, and continue at the same level he was just on with the flip of a switch is impossible.  The best might be able to do it in a pitch or two—but all it takes is one mistake to end that perfect game, as we all know. 

So all you peeved Tiger’s fans, the lesson here is you can’t get it back.  The odds are that instant replay would not have made a difference, the ump blew the call—it happens.

You Can’t Get It Back

That leads me to my last point —some plays cannot be gotten back! 

Unlike football where it’s 15 seconds of action for every 10 minutes of nothing, you can’t get most baseball plays back.  Yes, home runs can be fixed but almost everything else in baseball is not fixable. 

You can’t instant replay balls and strikes, it’s just not possible.  You can fix a percentage of plays at bases—safe and out calls, but as I demonstrated in the Galarraga example, it simply is not worth it.  The odds are that the stoppage of play will do more harm to the game then the bad call. 

The media was all over the umps at that Phillies versus Marlins game, saying instant replay would have corrected the call—how?  The umpire called it foul.  You can’t change the call and give him a base hit, it is just not possible. 

Your best-case scenario is to do the play over again, which takes a strike away but again ask yourself is it worth the 10- to 15-minute stoppage of play or would that change the face of the game too much?

Realistically?

While I am a solid opponent of instant replay in sports, I will concede that it can help umpires out in certain situations.  It can correct home run calls, and that is something MLB has been using since August of 2008.  I stand by my opinion that beyond that it would ruin the game for real fans.  Games move slow enough as it is, is it really worth extending games by another 30 to 45 minutes?  Keep the humanity in baseball!

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