I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: baseball does not need replays. Now, just two weeks into the regular season, we’re already seeing early signs of disaster. The sky hasn’t fallen yet, but managers and many fans alike are peaking out from behind their umbrellas with a sense of impending doom. Others appear completely unconcerned, however: a recent poll on ESPN.com showed that nearly 60 percent of MLB fans thought the early issues surround the new replay system were “no big deal.” At the risk of beating a dead horse, I beg to differ.
Unsurprisingly, Boston Red Sox fans were the most irritated, calling these issues surrounding the challenge rule a “worrying sign.” That comes after the MLB fessed up to blowing a call in Saturday’s game between the Yankees and the Red Sox. Even though that play didn’t turn into any runs — thus having nothing more than a butterfly’s effect on the Yankee’s 7-4 win — the call should have been overturned. If the boys upstairs can’t make the call with indisputable evidence able to be watched over and over again at every imaginable angle, then we should stop wasting everybody’s time.
Asking a handful of officials to take a glance at some remote location to see if the guy on the field made the right call is not anymore fair, nor efficient. Clearly no matter how many armchair umpires we let into the business of making the call on the field, we are not any more likely to get the right call. If we just want to give more people the chance to give their opinion, why not just let all the fans in the stands and at home vote with a little remote. “Ask the audience” calls, now that would be fair! Wouldn’t it just make more sense to get the best guys — who are going to make the “right” call the first time — on the field? I thought that’s what the MLB already did.
To some degree, the more people you let in on the decision-making the less fair it actually is. That’s why umpires hardly wince when the batter or the manager throws a fit about the strike zone. If he’s calling it one way for both teams, you can argue all you want, but that’s the way he’s calling it for the whole game. It’s why the new rule doesn’t allow balls and strikes to be challenged, and it is just as good a reason not to let every other possible play be challenged via replay. If you leave that up to anymore than the four umpires on the field — especially the one nearest to the play on the field — then you’re just creating the opportunity for more turmoil, not solving any serious problem.
By the way, White Sox and Royals fans got to see in their last series how “fair” the calls are when the opportunity to challenge is on the table. Not at all. Every close call was overturned or affirmed in Kansas City’s favor. It’s easy to blame the officials — and again, maybe it changed nothing — but in theory, you can at the very least expect the guys on the field to be consistent no matter how much you disagree with their calls. This throws a wrench into that; it doesn’t tighten up loose screws.