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Expanded Replay a Must for Playoffs

by Mike DePilla
Sunday, October 25, 2009

Phil Rogers writes an excellent article about instant replay and umpire review in today's Tribune. For my money, it is an absolute must-read. Unless you've been hiding under a rock for the past few weeks, you know that this postseason has been marred by some downright awful umpiring, and Rogers proposes a solution that I have long endorsed:
  • Move the two superfluous outfield umpires to the press box.
  • Along with an MLB official, give the two "press box" umpires access to camera replays.
  • Let them overturn calls as they see fit, without official "challenges" by anybody on the field.
It's as simple as that! Really, as Rogers points out, this isn't "graduate-level calculus" here. It's a very simple gameplan that would immensely improve on-the-field umpiring and not add any time to the length of a game at all.

It's nothing but an improvement: Nothing is lost in this system, and I cannot see any defense left for leaving the system as-is.

If the proposal here does not get put in place, it will be for one of three ridiculous reasons. One, the owners and commish Bud Selig are plainly too stubborn to consider changes. Two, they will decry the lack of the "human element"in the game. Three, they will complain that the delays will lengthen an already 3+-hour game.

Those complaints are all rubbish.

Balls and strikes would never be reviewed, of course, leaving that home plate umpiring completely untouched. And 95% of calls made by umpires on the field would stand, unchallenged. Those that do get called into question would be challenged and overturned by a human (albeit one with the befit of video replays). And, last I checked, the game is still being played and attended by humans. So the so-called "human element" would not be lost.

Besides, does the "human element" mean getting calls wrong? Umpiring and refereeing is supposed to be completely objective and not affected by any outside factors. Do we celebrate the "human element" in teachers grading exams?

The precious time that critics are worried about is currently being wasted by the on-field shenanigans that follow a controversial call anyway. Imagine a close, potentially wrong call made by a second base umpire, just like the Nick Swisher pick off mistake in Game 4 of the ALCS. In the time it takes a manager to leisurely jog out to second base, ask the umpire what he saw, confer with the other umpires and complain about the call, a "booth review" could be completed, with a decision sent down to the field allowing play to resume promptly.

Think about it, how long did it take for you, watching the game live on TV, to determine that Swisher was out at second base? A few replays, a few seconds? This isn't a long process here.

Even if the time delay issue was valid, which it's not, and the game was made slightly longer waiting for calls on the field, what is the argument there, exactly? It's OK to get the call wrong if it means speeding up the game?

The point is that getting the call right outweighs everything else. Rewarding good plays is what the game is all about. Getting the calls correct on the field, even if it takes a little assistance from upstairs, correctly rewards the actions of the players on the field. It works in a more complex format for the NFL, it certainly can work for simpler situations in MLB.

For the good of the sport and its playoffs, this proposal needs to be considered.

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