Baseball to use replay? Say it ain’t so!

When commissioner Bud Selig announced that Major League Baseball  will begin using instant replay to review close calls during the game, I thought, “Oh great, another way to delay a game that already drags on far too long.” And what’s to become of those highly entertaining manager-umpire arguments, when the two go face-to-face in a heated argument that always gets the fans laughing. No more Earl Weaver?  No more Lou Piniella?  What a shame.

Atlanta Braves president John Schuerholz, who sat on the committee that devised the rules for instant replay, suggests the new system will be in place for the 2014 season. Although details are sketchy, it looks like teams will be given three challenges per game. If a manager disputes a safe-out call, he will issue a challenge. The on-field umpires will then call MLB headquarters in New York, which will have a team of off-field umpires review the play and make the decision. Ball and strike calls will not be reviewable.

Schuerholz said the use of replay was necessary, “for baseball to dramatically reduce the number of incorrect calls that are made in any game that impacts the outcome of that game and hence the outcome of division races.”

Call me old fashioned, but I’m going to miss umps getting the calls wrong. The thing about badly blown calls is that they’ve always been part of the game and they become as big as home runs, strikeouts and errors. Don Denkinger’s calling Jorge Orta safe at first in the 1985 World Series, allowing the Kansas City Royals the chance to tie the series against the St. Louis Cardinals; Rich Garcia erroneously awarding a home run to Derek Jeter in the 1996 American League Championship Series, after a fan leaned over the fence and snatched the ball from a Baltimore Oriole Tony Torasco’s waiting glove, and perhaps most famously, Jim Joyce’s spectacularly blown call at first base, ruling a runner safe who was out by two feet and, in the process, breaking up Armando Gallaraga’s perfect game. These plays were all highly exciting bang-bang plays: fans screaming, players jumping around, managers arguing, commentators in shock. That will all be lost with replay.

Scheurholz went on to say that, “We believe that not only is it historic, but it will be impactful and very meaningful and useful.” Not to mention tedious. Ask any football fan who’s sat through interminable replays: when the play is under review, the screaming of fans dies down, the flow of the game grinds to halt and then, when the umps come back to make their belated call it’s always a huge letdown, with any sense of tension or drama has already been leached from the game.

I understand baseball’s impulse to get a call right. But not at the expense of drama or excitement.