One of the beautiful things about the game of baseball at the Major League level is that it has remained relatively pure for such a long time. The game that started back in the 1800′s was always a spectacle to behold when the greats took to the field. They played with great hustle and enthusiasm and played hard and by the rules.
When bad calls were made there were arguments and heated exchanges but then cooler heads prevailed as both players and umpires alike agreed to disagree and then went their separate ways.
As we deal with the PED scandal that has rocked Major League Baseball for over a decade now, the game has declined and has taken a significant backseat to the monster that is college and professional football. Now, in all of his infinite wisdom, MLB Commissioner Bud Selig has instituted new rules to the instant replay system.
I have been a long time critic of the use of instant replay in all sports with the only exception being on scoring plays. It’s a subjective system that is supposed to be objective but is not. Even when replays are used to challenge calls, officials still get them wrong and that’s where teams and fans pay an even bigger price.
Selig called the announcement ‘historic’ and said the 30 MLB teams will vote on it in November. It will need a 75% vote or more to be instituted. Selig also said it “gives managers a tool they’ve never had in an effort to dramatically reduce the number of incorrect calls made in games.” That’s great Bud, but here’s an idea. Why not get better umpires if you have so many calls to dramatically reduce? How about educating them more and how about making them work their way up harder like it used to be?
It would also be nice if umpires remembered they are not part of the entertainment in MLB. Too many of them are trying to ‘one-up’ players and managers during arguments and it has become embarrassing for both them and the league.
As far as the new rules, managers will receive three challenges per game. They may use one through the first six innings and then two more from the seventh inning until the completion of the game. Challenges not used in the first six innings will not carry over and challenges won by a manager will be retained for further use in the game if necessary.
Managers can still argue non-reviewable calls if they like but on reviewable calls, they are to issue to the home plate umpire or crew chief notice that they want to challenge a play. According to MLB officials, the manager must not delay in making the decision to opt for a challenge. Therein lays a big problem.
The games in Major League Baseball already take too long with the number of pitching changes and guys adjusting their numerous batting gloves, protective shields and protective cups. Now fans are going to be subjected to as many six more potential stoppages during the course of a game. While the odds of all six being used are slim, you know there will still be at least a couple on average.
Sports are best when there is drama and intrigue. Would anyone talk about the 1985 World Series if Don Denkinger’s call had been reversed? Would anyone talk about Derek Jeter’s home run being caught by a fan in the playoffs in ’96 had it been overturned?
Until sports are played by machines and/or robots then the games need to be judged and officiated by human beings. Players make mistakes and so do umpires and officials. Get ready for longer games and even more controversy.