The uproar over Carlos Delgado’s 3-run homer-that-wasn’t Sunday evening has predictably led to an outcry over baseball’s lack of instant replay. The New York Sun’s Tim Marchman insists “anyone who saw the robbery and was sure they saw something beautiful, an idiosyncratic bit of nonsense they couldn™t see in the other, lesser sports, can rest assured the baseball isn™t taking the idea of replay too seriously at all.”
The arguments usually made by those who oppose replay ” Bud Selig once actually claimed that œhuman error is part of our sport ” are pretty unconvincing. Mostly they come down to the idea that replay in baseball is bad because baseball doesn™t have replay. I™m sympathetic to this aesthetically; change in baseball is generally for the worse, and if you made me commissioner for a day, there would be no more night baseball. But the mere fact that baseball hasn™t come around to an idea adopted by every other sport doesn™t, by itself, prove anything. Tradition is a good thing, but the history of baseball is an attempt to mitigate human error as much as possible ” if this weren™t so, players would still call the games, as they did in the 19th century.
On the other hand, replay supporters also offer some puzzling arguments. Other sports may use replay, but œeveryone is doing it isn™t a much better reason for a sports league to do something than it is for an 8-year-old. There may be an issue of basic fairness at play ” who would want a pennant decided by a botched home run call? ” but if that™s so, the energies of replay advocates would be put to much better use in an effort to convince central baseball to toss the home plate umpire in favor of a computer that would call balls and strikes. After all, while mistakes like Sunday™s are rare, mistakes like the refusal of umpires to call any pitch above the belt a strike, despite the explicit definition of the strike zone to be found in the rule book, are common.
Nor have replay aficionados ever made a decent case for how challenges would be made. Managers certainly can™t be involved; no one wants to see some scheming fraud running up an appeal just to buy some more time for a reliever to get warm in the bullpen. It wouldn™t be fair to leave all decisions up to the very umpires whose calls would be under dispute, though, and leaving them up to purportedly neutral third parties would open baseball up to truly ugly situations worthy of the NBA, home of gambling referees and worse. In theory, replay might seem a fair idea, but it™s difficult to think of how it could be implemented in practice without either making already interminably long games even longer or removing control of the game from the umpires.
I hate to take issue with Marchman, who I generally consider to be one of the better baseball writers breathing, but I don’t think some form of instant replay would be hard to implement. Just outfit Bob Watson with a DirectTV dish and make it his new job to watch every game. The moment something fishy occurs, he can get on the hotline to the relevant stadium and if necessary, personally reverse the call.
I realize this would be tiring work for Watson and even with DirectTV’s 8-games at once technology, he’s likely to miss a call or two. But that’s why he’s got family, friends and neighbors who can assist. If Bob’s not up to the challenge, perhaps the retired Whitey Herzog is ready to become MLB’s Czar Of Video Overruling?