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Debate: Instant replay in baseball

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Should instant replay call reviews be implemented in baseball?

Background and context

For years, many fans and followers and officials in baseball have considered introducing instant replay into baseball, with the idea of making calls more accurate, and reducing the number of mistakes made by umpires.
During the 2009 World Series, a number of controversial calls increased these calls for instant replay, with such articles as "Thomas Boswell. "The right call: More replays." Washington Times. November 10th, 2009. And, in June of 2010, an umpire blew a ninth-inning call, costing Detroit Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga a perfect game. The questions framing the debate include: Does it respect the traditions of baseball? Can these traditions adapt? Have these traditions already been broken by instant replay in home-run and foul-post calls? Does instant replay respect the human element of the game? Are umpires calls part of the drama and uniqueness of baseball? Should baseball take note from all the other sports that have adopted instant replay? Would it save fans, players, coaches, and even umpires from feelings of anger, injustice, and shame when a bad call is made that affects the outcome of a game? Would it take up too much time? Can NFL-style "red flag" measures limit the number of replays performed and time consumed? And, would any sacrifice on time be worth it? How important is ensuring accuracy in the relatively small number of botched calls that occur? Should instant replay be included for all calls except strikes and balls and "continuation calls"? Should instant replay be fully incorporated into baseball?

Contents

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Tradition: Can instant replay be reconciled with tradition?

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Pro

  • Baseball has replay for boundary calls, why not for other calls? Tradition of baseball is not so sacred that it prevented instant replay from being implemented in 2008 for "boundary calls," such as determining whether balls passed over the fence in a home run, or hit the top of the wall, whether potential home runs were fair or foul, and whether there was fan interference. It has been used 54 times since its introduction in August 2008, and calls were overturned in 22 cases. Clearly, the "tradition" of baseball was broken in these cases, why not continue the process through to its natural extension in having instant replay in other parts of the game, with appropriate limits of course.
  • Instant replay is in "the best interests of the game." This clause is a key element of baseball. It drives all of the rule-making decisions on the game. And, it is clear that a modest instant replay system is in the best interests of the game. It would avoid incorrect calls that have a devastating and unfair consequence on games, players, and fans. This is the most compelling "interest" to consider. All other arguments are based on weaker arguments about "time-consumed" by instant replay (which would amount to only a couple minutes per game if any time at all) and "tradition" (which is totally bogus).
  • General statements in favor of instant replay in baseball Don Denkinger, a famous umpire whose questionable call in the 1985 World Series helped the Kansas City Royals come back to beat the St. Louis Cardinals, said in 2010: "There are so many areas you can use instant replay. Maybe instant replay can clean things up. If a play is missed, it can be corrected. I didn't feel that way in '85, but I feel that way now."[1]


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Con

  • Tradition of umpire calls in baseball should be left alone Tim McCarver, the veteran catcher who will call his 20th World Series on TV and his 12th for Fox, acknowledged that 2009 was a “dreadful” postseason for umpires but does not believe replay should be used to review out or safe calls. “Outside of (boundary calls), I think the game should be left alone.”[2]
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Humanity: Is instant replay consistent with the humanity of baseball?

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Pro

  • Instant replay does not diminish human element of baseball Instant replay is merely a tool (like a bat or a baseball mit) that assists in a human activity. It does not change the facts on the grounds as they are played out by humans. It merely allows humans to go back an make sure that the event is properly judged. And, the idea that "machines will be deciding the outcome" is absolutely non-sensical. Has this occurred in all the other sports that institute instant replay? No! Instead, instant replay helps advance the very real human feelings of merit, justice, and finality that should accompany sports.
  • Instant replays can be exciting for fans. Examining instant replay in the stands or while watching TV can be exciting for fans as they get to see the play unfold in slow motion and the rules of the game unfold in detailed, fair, real-time analysis. It is not a slog for fans. It is actually entertaining, adding rather than subtracting from the experience.


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Con

  • Fallible umpire calls are part of the drama of baseball Many people actually enjoy the drama that comes with the fallibility of umpire's calls, and the importance placed on them making the right call, without the aid of instant replay. This sub-plot in baseball in unique and should be preserved.


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For baseball: Does baseball lend itself well to instant replay?

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Pro

Of course, the baseball umpires are not the gods, they can make some mistakes when they are judging the players are safe or not, so adding the instant replay can help the umpires to judge in a right way. Therefore instant replay should be added at the game. Also, the umpires can get some bribe from some teams so it can also prevent the wrong judgement from the dark money.


  • Baseball lends itself well to instant replay Thomas Boswell. "The right call: More replays." Washington Times. November 10th, 2009: "how long did it take for millions of viewers, partisans in bars and TV announcers to know what the correct call should be? Often, they knew within 20 seconds and almost always within a minute. Has even one controversial play this October required the five, six or seven minutes that NFL replays frequently take? No, I don't think so. [...] Baseball fears that it will adopt replay and inherit the problems of the NFL. Far more likely, it would discover that replay is much better suited to baseball -- both in accuracy and speed -- than any other sport."
  • Calls for instant replay rise with each bad call (it's inevitable). Every year in baseball, a number of serious bad calls are made that create a ground-swell of calls for the implementation of instant replay. These calls should be heeded sooner rather than later, as they will only continue to grow and undermine the legitimacy of MLB baseball.
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Con

  • Instant replay should not exist for sake of personal achievements Steve Hirsch. "Why instant replay is unnecessary." Huffington Post. June 4, 2010: "Even if Major League Baseball decided to implement the use of instant replay, this is hardly the game that should be the deciding factor [the Detroit Pitcher Armando Gallaraga's Perfect Game in June of 2010]. In the end, the only thing that was affected by Jim Joyce's botched call was a personal achievement. The final score was the same and the winning and losing pitchers remained unchanged. [...] If a fan or a player is more concerned with a personal achievement than how their teams finishes in the standings, then that person needs to reorganize its priorities during a game."


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Rarity: Does the rarity of bad calls matter?

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Pro

  • Getting rare/important calls right justifies replay. Events like Galarraga's perfect game are rare (although not that rare). But, there rarity is not an argument against instant replay. The rare and very important call is hugely important. It is important to the fans, important to the players, and important to the legitimacy of baseball. Ensuring that these events are called correctly and fairly is well worth any of the much smaller costs that might come with instituting an instant replay system.
  • Instant replay justified to prevent another Galarraga call Jamie Samuelsen. "Galarraga call proves that time has come for replay in baseball." Freep.com. June 4th, 2010: "none of us have ever witnessed a play that had such a major impact on history. It didn’t alter a game — the Tigers were going to win that thing regardless. But it took history away from Armando Galarraga. And it may change the course of baseball history. This is the smoking gun that should lead to instant replay in Major League Baseball. There’s no turning back now. The game started as a quiet late spring game between two scuffling teams. It ended as the No. 1 news story in America. It trumped the oil spill. It trumped the silly little waste of time and money up on Mackinac Island. It trumped anything that President Obama said or did. Just look at Twitter — 99.9% of the world’s population didn’t know who Jim Joyce was at 8:50 p.m. Wednesday night. By 9:50, he was the number one trending topic on the social networking site." Another event like this needs to be avoided in the future, by instituting instant replay."


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Con

  • Bad calls balance each other out over the course of the season. Steve Hirsch. "Why instant replay is unnecessary." Huffington Post. June 4, 2010: "An umpire is bound to miss at least a few of them. After all, these guys aren't perfect. Every baseball fan knows that these plays balance out over the course of a season and that you can't get riled up over one play just because it may have had an impact on the final score. In a season, every team will have those games they should have won and those they should have lost. The problem is that we tend to only remember the games we should have won because "if we had only won that game...", fill in the blank."


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Time: Could the time consumed by instant replay be limited?

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Pro

  • Many replay systems could adequately reduce time consumed. One option is to implement the NFL’s red-flag system, which limits teams to two replays per game. Another is a broader option that allows operators in MLB’s central replay office to stop the game to review a call. Both of these systems would significantly limit the time consumed by a replay system. The maximum time added would be something like 5 minutes to a game, in exceptional circumstances. This is well worth ensuring games are won fairly.


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Con


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Controversies: Are there enough controversial calls to justify replay?

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Pro

  • Instant replay would better legitimize MLB and game outcomes Every time a bad call is made that effects the outcome of a game in some way, the legitimacy of MLB and its umpires is damaged. When a team advances in the playoffs under the heir of suspicion of a bad call aiding their way, it damages the credibility of the system, the MLB, and baseball in general. This is purely unhealthy, with no redeeming qualities.
  • Instant replay ensures fan/player feelings of justice, over anger Modern society is based on the idea of justice and merit. In sport, the better team should win. Chance in the rules and umpiring should not play a part. When fans find conclusive evidence that a call has been missed and that their team should have won (or whatever), feelings of injustice can turn into rage. This was seen on display with Galarraga's 2010 perfect game that was robbed from him by a bad call. The fans were livid. These feelings can and should be avoided by introducing instant replay into baseball.
  • Instant replay ends umpire shame of making decisive, bad calls Don Denkinger, a famous umpire whose questionable call in the 1985 World Series helped the Kansas City Royals come back to beat the St. Louis Cardinals, said in 2010: "I had 30 great years ... and I had one call that's all anybody ever wants to talk about. It's not right. But it's the way the game's played, and that's what happens."[4] He now believes in instant replay, and instant replay would have removed the prospect that he would have to live with decades of shame.
  • Instant replay would reduce fights between coaches and umpires. Bad calls are typically the reason for fights or shouting matches breaking out between coaches and umpires. Instant replay would reduce the occurrence of these events, making it much harder for a coach to complain about a call. If instant replay confirms that it is accurate, what can the coach complain about?


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Con

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Instant-replay ump: Should baseball have a dedicated instant replay umpire?

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Exceptions: Can exceptions be made to the instant replay rules?

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Pro/con sources

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