Apologies for the awful cliché, but this new plan to expand instant replay in Major League Baseball is a home run. Who cares about the intention, focus on the entertainment value and improved viewer experience.
The effort, of course, is aimed at trying to limit the amount of blown calls by umpires that are becoming increasingly obvious with the phenomenal zoned-in replays around. But the solution isn’t foolproof in the least.
The plan calls for managers to get three challenges per game, one during the first six innings and two between the seventh and final out. If the review of the call proves the umpire wrong, the manager keeps a challenge.
Problems? Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon told USA Today: “I just don’t like the idea that the earlier part of the game is considered less important. I know we’ve lost games in the first inning.”
Nonetheless, forget all this business about getting the call right and maintaining the integrity of the game – this is the sport with A-Rod playing after all – and not cheating fans. Blah, blah, blah.
Yes, it is painful if one’s team loses thanks to an umpire messing up. St. Louis fans are still smarting from the 1985 World Series. Everyone has a tale about how their squad got the shaft.
But it’s sports.
Another awful cliché: it’s the toy department.
If one can’t accept the it’s-only-a-game angle, then at least appreciate how this replay thing could make watching a normally who-cares game more interesting. There’s a chance to play manager at home by watching the replay and then guessing whether it’s worth a manger launching a challenge. Tennis has become far more enjoyable now that players have the chance to challenge a call and a replay system shows whether a ball was in or out.
It’s going to a be a lot of fun to laugh if the baseball replay shows the umpire missed the call and if the replay official checking his work also appears to miss it. The go-to-the-videotape also should offer the chance to appreciate how hard it is to make some of these calls in real time -- particularly, if a replay official can’t find conclusive evidence to overturn a call.
(Bonus commentary from MediaPost’s P.J. Bednarski:
“But baseball’s worst and most baffling calls also have created some of its most indelible/stupidly memorable moments. Accuracy may destroy some great drama. Remember George Brett, racing out to confront the umpire when he was called out for over-tarring his bat? Or Earl Weaver, former manager of the Orioles, being frequently kicked out, literally kicking and screaming? Or a crowd of fans chanting “B*llsh*t” in unison? Isn’t that partly what we pay $50 per seat, or way, way more, to experience?
And also, there’s the ugly possibility that bad calls will be compounded by a quirk in the rules.
Remember last season, when umpire Mike DiMuro signaled that Yankees outfielder Dewayne Wise had successfully caught a foul ball hit by Cleveland Indians’ infielder Jack Hannahan -- and completely missed that a fan was waving around the baseball Wise actually didn’t catch?
That horrible call was bad enough. Imagine if Cleveland had already used up its challenges when that happened.
In that case, the new rule would be an added insult. True enough, Hannahan was called out and as a matter of fact, was thrown out of the game when at the half inning, he recommended DiMuro check out the videotape later on.")
USA Today says replays won’t lengthen the game. The amount of arguments between umps and managers could be reduced and reviews might take as little as just over a minute to complete.
Arguments aren’t going out of the game, though. Legendary manager Tony La Russa made that clear to USA Today. Balls and strikes are not subject to review, for example,
so there's that to fight over.
But at times, there will be the opportunity for fans to yell: "Ump you're blind and now it's confirmed."