Saturday, May 24, 2008

Rekindle the Instant Replay Controversy

While watching last nights Cleveland - Texas barn burner, the umpires stirred the instant replay controversy once again. In this video clip of Ben Francisco's RBI Double you can see what appears to be the ball going over the yellow line in left field. While watching on STO the commentators certainly did not make it easy to come to ones own decision, but it does appear as though the ball, at the very least, landed on the top of the yellow line.

From MLB.com:

According to the ground rules, the padding atop the outfield rail at Progressive Field is home run territory, but after conferring near third base, the umpires decided the ball didn't hit the top of the yellow padding.

Slow-motion replay, however, showed otherwise.

Thus, the argument for instant replay can again be made. Comically, MLB.com's Gameday shows that the ball (image right) went over the wall in left field. It does not show the ball touching the wall - as is the case with the two blue dots to the right. So if it is so obvious that the call was missed and this has been the case on numerous occasions to this point in the season, what is the hold up?

I am, as previously mentioned, against instant reply. My thinking, is that for every call that it fixes and consequently alter the results of the final score, it will wastefully slow down hundreds of ballgames where the difference between an RBI double and a bases clearing home run will have no factor at the end of the day. Furthermore, consider how many times a ball is put into play in a game? Maybe between 50 and 60 a game? Of that, how many are home runs? On average 1 or 2? The majority of which are no-doubters. But how many close plays at first are there? How many near catches in the outfield that are called as a catch when they are 'snow-coned'?

Lets take this a step further. How often has a 'K Zone' or some other strike zone toll popped up, only to show you that a called strike was way out of the zone? Or how about the other way around? Of 300 or so pitches thrown in a game even at the suggested 94% accuracy the umps are sitting at would leave some 18 pitches called incorrectly. Is it not a fact that pitches, hitters and defenses change their approach for every instant in a count? A 2-1 'called strike' that is actually outside the strike zone has the count sitting at 2-2 instead of 3-1. Now try and tell me that the 6% of time that a missed ball or strike does not have a greater influence on every game then does a blown home run call?

There in lies my problem. Proponents for instant replay scoff at the idea that this would slow play down, asserting that conferences are already slow enough. But if, as Ken Rosenthal suggests, there is the technology for instant replay, how could one justify implementing instant replay for a scenario which rarely occurs and not utilizing it for a scenario which frequently occurs? That said, this now occasional instant replay would evolve into a tool used for 6% of pitches. And then how many close plays at the plate? At first? A catch in the outfield? A pitcher balking? Stealing signs? Where would it stop and how could one justify using this technology for an occasional instance when there is a multitude of other mistakes made throughout a game?

Let's put this another way. Think of how angering it is during football season when an obvious blown call is ruled 'unchallengable' by league rules. Either a 'down by contact' or other. Would this same frustration not exist in baseball games where a ball that would have led to a walk is called a strike and the count is set at 3-2?

I know Chicks dig the Longball but creating a rule which only affects home runs is kind of ridiculous, isn't it?

BallHype: hype it up!

Update - 05/24/2008 - 10:30 AM EST
Via Baseball Digest Daily:
Rob Dibble and Kevin Kennedy had MLB Executive VP Jimmie Lee Solomon on their XM show, and stated that it could impact the pace of the game and might be used during the Arizona Fall League.


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