MLB at the Advent of Instant Replay
Baseball is a game steeped in history and ritual. A right of passage for every generation to share with the ones that follow.
Every boy, even in this electronic age, when baseball is played on video screens, knows the names of the great ones: Aaron, Koufax, Mantle, Doby, Boggs, and Berra.
Where a breathtaking play will stay vividly burned into one’s memory for a lifetime. Where the cards of future Cooperstown enshrinees, Greg Maddux, Manny Ramirez, and Chipper Jones are coveted in schoolyards.
It is a game resistant to change. The purists hang on to the hope that interleague play is still only temporary, and the suicide squeeze is still good for an adrenaline rush.
Where generations will argue whether A.J. Pierzynski was out or safely reached base in Game Two of the 1995 ALCS, helping the White Sox beat the Angels. They will dispute the 1996 ALCS Game One, where Derek Jeter's home run appeared to have been snatched from Orioles outfielder Tony Tarasco by 12-year old Jeffrey Maier.
It is such a pivotal call that Major League Baseball hopes will be settled once and for all after the league initiates the use of instant replay, starting Aug. 28. Initially, it will be only for disputed home-run calls.
Players and managers are already weighing in on the decision. The Tigers’ Kenny Rogers is on record, calling it a slap in the face to umpires. Indians Manager Eric Wedge has told reporters he is more a proponent of the human element of the game.
For me, among baseball’s most memorable moments, however, are the demonstrative tantrums of managers arguing close calls.
I can still see then-Seattle manager Lou Piniella stirring up a dust storm in Cleveland after slamming his hat to the ground then kicking it over and over and over and over and over again around the bases, and ultimately into the stands along the third-base line, arguing a call.
Under the new replay rules, leaving the dugout to argue a call following a replay will result in an automatic ejection.
I will miss those moments, as part of what major-league sports has come to call the “gameday experience.”
Now with the Chicago Cubs, Lou Piniella told Associated Press writer Ronald Blum “I’d love to be able to throw a red hankie or a green hankie. Imagine being able to throw something on the field and not be ejected."
How far baseball goes with instant replay remains to be seen. For now, simply having it gives fans of the game something else to dispute, probably for generations to come.
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