On the morning of July 26, 2011 the Pittsburgh Pirates were in a first place tie in the National League Central with a record of 53-47. The day before they had beaten the Atlanta Braves in a nationally televised game on ESPN to put them in that top spot but later that night and in the 19th inning their season would turn on a horrible call. A call that could have been reversed if instant replay could have been used by the umpires to rule that Julio Lugo was out at the plate and send the game to the 20th inning. The Pirates fell out of first place and went 19-43 the rest of the way to guarantee another losing season. Baseball is a funny game and even if the right call was made on that day there is nothing that could prove that the Pirates would continue to win and make the playoffs but then again, maybe they would have. Of course we also have the Armando Galarraga “Imperfect Game” that could have been reversed if instant replay could have been utilized. The technology is available but Major League Baseball has not completely approved its expansion.
My opinion on this has changed over the past two seasons of baseball. I consider myself a baseball traditionalist and I had thought that since replay had not been used for a 100 plus years and things have been fine then why would it be needed now. But with each year that passes it is becoming more and more apparent that the MLB needs to expand instant replay. Why should replays solely be used for the enjoyment of the fans?
Now I see there are two main problems with instituting instant replay on a grander scale but they all seem to be connected. The first one is something MLB has been trying to combat for years and it seems as if it has only gotten worse, the length of the games. In actuality the time for each game has gone down as long as you aren’t watching the Yankees or Red Sox play. So you institute instant replay and maybe the time of the game goes up a little. You’ve taken one step back after taking two steps forward, what’s the big deal? If the plays that could be reviewed were laid out then there might be some games that won’t be affected by it and nothing has changed. It’s the games that do have a reviewable play or two will take a little longer and that is just a price that will have to be paid for a better umpired game. I see the second main problem as the injury factor. What if while waiting during an instant replay a pitcher’s arm tightens up, play resumes, throws a pitch and snap he’s out for a year? Or a position player pulls a muscle once play resumes? The injury potential may be the most severe aspect of instant replay but there is always a remedy.
Instant replay is coming to a baseball stadium near you. It’s just a matter of time but its arrival cannot come too soon.