MLB Video Review New Rules and 5-Hour Games

FlagBaseballI always though Murphy said “the more you work to improve something, the more damage you do…”  Apparently, MLB and the powers that be wish to pay no heed to Mr. Murphy.

I personally think it should be the way it used to be where the umpires make the call and the call stands—i.e., the human element.  The first dagger into this human element came at the end of 2008 when they decided to review home runs and not-home runs.  Well, if a not-home run is reviewed and deemed a home run, not so bad—the umpire makes a circular motion with his finger and anyone on base trots home and the runs go up on the board.  The other scenario is highly problematic.  When a home run is reviewed and deemed to not be a home run, the umpire has to make a subjective decision where to put the base runners; sounds to me like you are simply replacing one human error with another.

Instead of reverting back to the way the game should be played, players, owners, and those who supervise umpires and believe they are failing have decided to go to an NFL variation of the challenge and make anything challengeable except balls and strikes.  Although not mentioned, I think the umpire’s decision to handle rain is not challengeable either, keep playing, delay and resume an hour later, or call the game.

The way it will be beginning in 2014 will be each manager will have one challenge flag for the first six innings and then two for the 7th inning until the end of the game.  This means there could be as many as six interruptions for reviews during one game.  For those of you complaining the games are too long now, imagine if it takes five hours to play a nine-inning 2-1 game.  Furthermore, unlike the NFL, where is the accountability.  In the NFL, if a coach loses a challenge, he burns a time out, which could adversely affect chances of winning or coming back late in the 4th quarter.  Baseball is not a timed sport so what do you take away?  With the bridge to purity already burnt and torn down, I would suggest if they absolutely feel they must do this, they should require a manager who loses a challenge to either make a substitution or scratch a name off the available bench.  Another problem is managers may challenge even when they know they are wrong in the outside chance a right is wronged rather than a wrong righted.

The modern baseball fan growing up in the age of high definition and other modern conveniences and viewing options fails to realize the following: umpires made just as many mistakes in the bygone era, the era before television, the antenna TV era, early analog cable, and pre-HD.  As fans, we were not aware of them because we could not see them at the ballpark or on more primitive viewing devices.  The HD and coming soon, the 3D era exploit more umpire’s mistakes and fans come to the false conclusion that modern day umpiring stinks, when actually it is as good as it ever was with umpires, members of the human race, making human mistakes (to err is human).  Not to mention, if you got it, flaunt it!  We [got] the technology and we feel compelled to use it.  Not so fast, guys.  In 1945, our elected officials felt the same way about the atom bomb.  We bombed Hiroshima with a conventional atomic bomb which for all intents and purposes, won World War II for America and its allies.  The other bomb, a thermonuclear bomb was sitting in Manhattan and American scientists were very curious about the difference between a conventional atom bomb exploding and a thermonuclear bomb exploding; so we bombed a place called Nagasaki, not even a military hot spot in Japan, just so back in America our scientists could observe the difference at the expense of innocent lives.  Hence, the problem with using technology just for the sake of using technology.

A more sensible way for this technology to coexist with the human element is to have the situation room in Manhattan and review plays in the room for the powers that be.  Let the calls stand, right or wrong, and play the game of baseball uninterrupted the way it was played for two-plus centuries.  Then use the tapes or digital storing devices at the end of the season to review each umpire’s performance.  Part of the human element is to make success a journey, not a destination, and to keep improving even if on top.  MLB umpires are no exception—they want to learn from their mistakes and do better, just not at the expense of a game in progress.



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