MLB has nothing to lose with replay use

By Dave Fultz

Now that we are a little more than two weeks into the regular season, there is a ton going on.

Some of the divisions are in a jumble because the teams we all thought would do well have underperformed, and some of the perennial bottom-feeders have surprised everyone. The same can be said about players who have slumped or slugged early on.

So, instead of using this very small sample size to analyze the season thus far, I’m going to delve into the topic that has me – and at least a few others – ensnared this week.

Even having this conversation is a no-no for a lot of old baseball guys, but I’m fascinated with the possibility of Major League Baseball using instant replay.

ESPN’s Jayson Stark had a live chat with fans on Monday through to discuss the topic. The chat’s wrap-up is still up on the ESPN Web site, and if you’re interested in the topic, I’d recommend checking it out.

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The topic has been beaten to death on shows like “1st and 10” and “Around the Horn,” but I don’t think MLB has opened its ears to the debate one bit.

But in this feature, Stark wrote: “Name me one other business in the world where technology exists that could make that business operate better and more efficiently – but they CHOOSE not to use it? I can’t think of one. Except baseball. Makes no sense.”

This made me think, and I couldn’t come up with one either. There are a lot of reasons for MLB to keep up with the status quo and not do something, but to me, there are none that override the need to get the calls right.

I can certainly understand hesitation on the part of the umpires to create some sort of provision for instant replays to be a part of the game they’ve ruled on for so long. They are already questioned by broadcasters and writers every time there is a controversial call.

But the argument that instant replay will only bring more scrutiny onto umpires is flawed.

Many had the same complaints when QuesTec – a system that evaluates how an umpire calls the strike zone – was introduced, but there hasn’t even been a whiff of controversy surrounding it since. Most umpires realized that as long as the system was there to help them do a better job, it was a good thing.

Yes, allowing umpires’ calls to be challenged by instant replay during games would be a much more visible process. And yes, there would have to be very specific limits decided ahead of time as to what calls could be scrutinized by the use of a replay.

But with the proper limits and implementation, an instant replay system in baseball would help umpires make more correct calls during a ballgame. Isn’t that the important thing?

An umpire’s calls of balls and strikes would have to be the first thing off-limits to this argument. An umpire’s call of the strike zone is one of the beautiful things about baseball, and so is how pitchers and batters need to adapt to it over the course of a game.

But to argue that human error on calls that need to be made correctly – home runs, foul balls, etc. – is just a part of the game and we have to live with it isn’t just wrong, it’s lazy.

If something can be done to attempt a fix for a noticeable problem, MLB owes it to the fans and itself to at least give it a try.

The desire for old baseball guys like Bud Selig to keep the game the same as when their granddad took them to games can be understood. But to stunt actual, tangible progress to improve the quality of competition in the name of nostalgia is just wrong.

One last thing to remember, fans won’t run away from the game they love because of instant replay, just look at the NFL. Fans could care less about the red flags and replay officials, as long as the right calls are made.

Dave Fultz is a junior in Media. He can be reached at [email protected].