Instant replay has been a long-standing part of professional sports for many years. A few years ago, professional sports started using instant replay as a tool for officiating games when referees or umpires failed to make the right call or a judgment was called into question. On Thursday night, there was play at the plate involving Minnesota Twins’ catcher Joe Mauer and the Chicago catcher. At first glance—in full speed—it looked as if Mauer was out even though the umpire called him safe; upon further review, however, it was revealed that Mauer was safe and the umpire made the correct call. Baseball has already announced that they plan on using instant replay more next season and plays like this could ultimately be reviews. This situation and rule change got me thinking: is instant replay necessary for baseball?
In football and basketball, I can understand when instant replay is necessary to make some close judgment calls during crucial portions of the game or during scoring plays. I believe both leagues have implemented a system that is fair and manageable and doesn’t fully interfere with the officials’ ability to still do their job and officiate the game; however, I have mixed feelings about replay in baseball.
I haven’t had a problem with baseball reviewing homeruns because it is difficult for umpires to get an accurate view of the ball—at times—and reviewing whether or not the ball went over the fence in fair territory normally takes minimal time to review because of the wide amount of angles available with today’s camera; however, if baseball were to start reviewing plays at the plate and close plays on the basepaths, what need would there be for umpires anymore? Do umpires make mistakes—sometimes costly ones—throughout the course of a game and a season? Sure they do, but that doesn’t mean that they do such a horrendous job on a consistent basis that we need to rely on instant replay to do their job for them.
The majority of the time, umpires make the correct calls simply by getting in position and making the call they see from their perspective; the majority of the time it is the correct call. On the off chance that it is an incorrect call—sometimes one that costs a team a run or an out—the umpires are scrutinized for “blowing the game”. While I have always been one to openly criticize officials for blown calls, I have always tended to gravitate towards the theory that “one call doesn’t decide a game” and that “there are many plays throughout the game that ultimately decide its outcome”. With that in mind, I say that having instant replay expanded is not necessary for the fact that, to me, it would ruin the beauty of the game of baseball and it would make it too reliant on replay to decide its calls for them and not the umpires that work the game. In addition, with games seemingly lasting three hours or more a night, replay would only add to the length of the game which would disinterest some fans.
I would be alright with replay being expanded for the playoffs only, but I believe the game of baseball is perfect the way it is right now and the more we become reliant on instant replay to officiate ballgames, the more we ruin that perfection. It is for that reason that I do not endorse the move by baseball to expand instant replay and instead, hope that baseball can remain committed to their umpires and only use replay on a more limited basis.