The O’Hare Hilton in Chicago is once a bustling Mecca of baseball decision-making this week as owners of the 30 baseball franchises meet with the Commissioner and members of the MLB front office. These meetings come just a week after the General Managers met here.
While not formally on the agenda, owners are planning to speak about the length of the post season and what baseball may be able to do to shorten the play-offs. There will also be informal discussions on the use of instant replay and whether to expand the types of calls that can be reviewed.
The 2009 playoffs were a showcase of how far technology had come. Each play on the diamond seemed to be played and replayed from every angle. The broadcasters and hometown fans brought into question each decision by the umpiring crew.
While none of the wrong calls made by the umpires had a significant impact on the outcome of any of the playoff races, they did raise the question of how much should the game officials rely on technology and instant replay?
Currently replay is used for boundary calls and home runs. These seem appropriate as they could have a significant impact and both the umpires and the teams want to get the calls right. Going beyond that and implementing more cases where instant replay should be used is a of questionable benefit.
Granted you would have the correct calls being made but you would do so at the detriment to the flow of the game. Each time the umpires have to use instant replay means play is stopped. The game’s flow and momentum is disrupted by the constant stoppage of play.
A team could be coming back gaining momentum putting runners on base. If instant replay is suddenly called upon, that stoppage could disrupt the momentum swing perhaps killing a rally.
What if a pitcher is throwing a no-hitter and suddenly in the midst of that play is halted so that the umpires could review a close play at first or whether an outfielder really caught a flyball? The pitcher is left standing on the mound waiting for play to resume.
While I applaud that technology is now at a point where it is possible to see the play from every imaginable angle I would prefer to leave the decisions to the umpires. During these playoffs there were numerous occasions when the umpiring crew came together and got the calls right without the delay of instant replay.
The length of the playoffs is something that I hope Bud Selig and the owners are able to fix. There is too much time being taken for the three rounds of playoffs. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim manager Mike Scioscia complained about it during the American League Championship Series.
Taking nine days to play a six-game series is ridiculous. On route to winning their 27th World Championship the New York Yankees won 15 games but it took them 31 days to do it. It should never take a month to get through the playoffs even if all series went to their maximum.
Over the course of the regular season baseball players play every day many going two weeks without a day off. Once the playoffs start it seems like every other day is an off day.
Part of this has to do with television and making sure the games align with prime viewing without impacting other programming. There are also off-days inserted as a precaution in case of inclement weather.
With the playoffs now reaching into November the weather becomes more of a factor so there may not be a way around some buffering but baseball post season is quickly becoming on par with the NBA playoffs that seem to stretch longer than the regular season.
For the good of baseball this needs to be tightened up. Baseball should not stretch into November. It is possible to end the season in October without shortening any of the series. It is just up to MLB to get more creative in planning their off days.
No official word came out on either of these issues during the owners meetings but baseball is actively working on them and hopes to make some sort of recommendation to the owners at their next scheduled meeting January 13-14 in Paradise Valley, AZ or by Spring Training at the latest.
Despite these issues baseball continues to bask in the warmth of a resurgence. Attendance, while down, was not as bad as they could be in these economic times and fans continue to come to the ballparks in large numbers. Hopefully with a little tweaking baseball will continue its success.