July 31, 2012

Baseball instant replay expansion unnecessary

Mets fans have been patient for so long. Tom Seaver came close several times. Dwight Gooden tried, too, but to no avail. On June 1, Johan Santana became the closest Met to nail down a no-no, but a call on Carlos Beltran's liner down the line midway through the game was overturned due to expanded instant replay rules. The Mets and Padres remain as the only two franchises without a no-hitter. 

That's what the story would be if Bud Selig expanded instant replay before June. Instead, the Mets got their wish without interference from a well-placed camera.

Last Friday on "The Mike Lupica Show," Selig said instant replay in baseball will expand to include trapped balls and plays down the foul lines. He didn't give any time reference other than the word "now," but clearly those rules are not in effect -- yet.
Although this story didn't get picked up nearly as much as I expected it to, it only takes one bad call during a no-hit bid for this to change in a hurry.

I, for one, do not agree with expanding instant replay. Umpires do a very, very good job in one of the easiest sports to umpire. Unlike football, basketball and hockey, umpires don't have to keep as close an eye on 10-plus people. In fact, most of the plays involve an umpire who is already in perfect position (i.e. balls and strikes, fair/foul calls and plays at the bases).

From that perspective, it makes sense that the only replay rules in effect now involve plays that umpires aren't in great position for -- home run calls. I don't mind this rule as much.

But I do have a problem with the type of expansion Selig is signaling toward. Sometimes, umpires actually have a better view of the play than any camera does. They also might miss a few calls, but it's not like they are all going blind.

If this expansion really is going to happen, I hope it remains within reason. Put timing limitations on it like these plays will only be reviewed in the eighth inning or later. Implement a challenge system. Or put those two together, like football. That wouldn't be awful.

The number of calls that will be overturned due to this investment is so negligible that I really hope this was just a false alarm. The amount of money it's going to cost to expand this is so wasteful and the extra time it will add to games will make attending games less attractive. MLB should take this money and put it toward injury rehabilitation research or funding inner-city baseball programs. Anything but this.

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