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Baseball’s Slippery Slope-Slippery Slope-Slippery Slope

by Nick Vitrano

So baseball, you want in on the instant replay/challenge game, huh?  OK, but once you open that door, just know this: you’ll never slam it shut again.

I used to be an immovable advocate for instant replay.  If we can get the call right, then why wouldn’t we?  We have the technology.  It’s the right thing to do.  It’s silly to trust the game to humans who make mistakes, who have emotions, who are vulnerable to the reactions of the crowd and the urgings of the coaches and managers.  Replay is not an indictment of the human element.  These guys do a great job.  Generally speaking, they are perfect.  Replay is simply an insurance policy against human error.

It looks great on paper, but so does my high school batting average.  I’m not a professional baseball player, and I’m over replay.

I know baseball is a different sport than football, but when it comes to the model of replay and challenges, the NFL is what we’ve got, so let’s take a peeksy at that in the hopes that we can generate some excitement over MLB’s proposal.

Let me start here.  Perhaps baseball will have this better defined, but reading their plan, I’m not sure if that is the case – I barely even know what is challengeable anymore in the NFL. And once the challenge (or scoring review) is underway, then the circus really begins.

I don’t have the numbers, but I’d venture to say that about 50% of the replay challenges return with the following verdict: “The ruling on the field stands.”  Translation: we don’t have indisputable video evidence, so we’ll just go with what we called.  All right, then.  Solid waste of time.  If video can’t confirm one way or the other, and we’re ultimately going with what the official saw, because something obstructs the camera’s view or because the right angle doesn’t exist, then just go with the guy on the on the field…period.  It’s pathetic that we are slowing down live action to a frame-by-frame analysis to determine if a ball is moving or if a guy’s knee brushes the top of the field surface, and we still cannot be certain of what we see or don’t see.

And then there are the times when it appears the evidence is indisputable…and the call still comes back wrong – see Green Bay Packers.   

But my favorite is the “not challengeable” call from the field.  Yeah, back to the what is challengeable deal.  I thought the point of replay was to get it right.  So, we could right this wrong, but under league rules, that play can’t be reviewed.  Or…it could have been reviewed, but the ruling on the field negated the ability for the play to be reviewed.  Or…that’s definitely reviewable, but the coach (who earlier lost a controversial challenge ruling) is out of challenges. 

AHHHHHHHHHH!

Sometimes right, sometimes wrong, often not conclusive, and other times not useable, instant replay is proving itself no better than the human eye. And then there is that human eye. 

Let us not forget that the human element is absolutely the driving force behind replay, for despite the fact that we are reviewing a hard piece of video evidence, the video camera is still operated by a human being, and the evidence produced still interpreted by a human being.

In an effort to bleach the sometimes murky waters of the game, we’ve succeeded in little other than killing off its ecosystem. 

Baseball, leave your game alone, unless you’re open to machines running the whole shebangy, ‘cause once you open the door, you’ll never slam it shut. 

Tease Image: Author - Ruiguerra via Wikimedia Commons