More instant replay is coming in ’14. The question is, how much more?
Major League Baseball implementing expanded replay in 2014 isn’t exactly new news, but every time Joe Torre addresses the situation, as he did on Tuesday, he seems to bring a new clarity to the situation.
Torre, Major League Baseball’s executive vice president of baseball operations, is currently serving as Team USA’s manager in the World Baseball Classic. With his club playing at Camelback Ranch in Glendale to play the White Sox, Torre was again back in arm’s reach of curious reporters who are determined to get to the bottom of the instant replay conundrum.
It appears everyone is on board with the notion that more instant replay is needed. The question appears to be, how far should they take it? And, how much is too much? There are limits, Torre said, asking, “Do we want to get everything right?”
Torre obviously isn’t looking for bad calls to be made. He’s simply looking for a logical way to decipher what needs to be put under further review and what should simply be considered the human aspect of umpiring. Effusive in his praise of the umpires, Torre is not looking to stop play for every single disputed call.
After all, Torre said, even when play is halted, there’s no guarantee replay will provide a final decision with 100 percent accuracy.
“To me, even when you use replay there are going to be times when you’re not going to be able to tell,” he said. “Two guys can see the same replay and you’re going to get, ‘I see it this way, I see it that way.’ I think what we’re looking at is some of the obvious stuff that you can see right away. We certainly want to address that. But I don’t think we want to get into every single play. The game would never end.”
As it stands, the current replay rules involve judging whether home runs are fair or foul and whether a fan interfered with a ball. Possible expansion includes fair balls, foul balls and trapped balls.
The two elements that will never be up for replay scrutiny are balls and strikes. Torre has no desire to tinker with something that doesn’t need to be fixed, citing the umpires’ more than 95 accuracy rate in that department.
“You have to have something to yell about,” Torre quipped. “I don’t want to take the yelling out of this thing. That’s part of the color.”
Instant replay has been a hot topic for quite some time, ever since MLB implemented it for the first time in 2008. I remember at the time hearing some fans use it as an opportunity to take shots at the umpires, which I felt was completely unfair and misguided.
The quality of the umpires, most of whom are universally respected by the managers and players, has not increased or declined over the years. It’s the same as it’s always been, and umpires make calls with a higher degree of accuracy than most may think.
The issues emerged when technology exploded. It started when TV rightsholders suddenly had the ability to install cameras at every corner of the ballpark and had 27 different angles when showing a play in slo-mo after the fact. This enabled the viewing public to see, immediately, if a call was good or bad. In my opinion, that was unfair to the umpires. They were watching plays unfold in real time and had a fraction of a second to make a call. If they made an error, it would take only about 30 seconds for the networks to let the entire viewing public know it, and even less time was needed for the fans’ wrath to reach the playing field.
Things became worse for the umps when the new ballparks emerged. In the old days, outfield walls simply went straight across and a home run was determined by one bit of criteria: the ball either cleared the seats, or it bounced off the wall and back onto the field. There wasn’t much gray area, making it much easier for the umpires to make a snap decision before starting the one-fingered twirl.
Today, uneven outfield walls and zig-zaggy lines define what’s in and out of play. It’s part of the “uniqueness” of stadiums. But what’s neat for the fans became headaches for the umps. I saw this firsthand at Minute Maid Park, where the crazy outfield dimensions made it, at times, impossible to decipher what was a home run and what just barely missed.
Implementing instant replay the first time helped rectify those issues, and there is nothing at all wrong with everyone acknowledging that the umpires indeed could use some help. It’s simply not fair to have them out on a tightrope by themselves while the fan base can see a blown call from nine different angles while standing in the beer line and watching the TVs on the concourse. Times have changed, and helping umpires evolve with the times should only be looked at as a good thing.