Baseball Strikes Out with Instant Replay

by Suzie Raven

During the past week, Major League Baseball (MLB) finally implemented something that every other major U.S. sport has — instant replay. It makes sense for football, when the outcome of any of the season's sixteen games makes a difference in who makes the playoffs. Or basketball, when the fast pace means the referee might not be able to get to the proper spot to see a flagrant foul.

It doesn’t make sense for baseball, with its 162-game season and relatively slow pace.

Football overtook the national pastime in popularity because National Football League owners adapted their game to television in the 1960s. Baseball never adapted to TV. With commercials after every half inning, if a team gets three outs quickly, breaks can be as frequent as every five minutes. Then there’s the time in between pitches, which sometimes drags on forever. Instant replay will only slow the game down more.

Even if instant replay made sense for baseball, MLB is not going about it properly. The league only allows reviews of home runs, but many other plays can change the outcome of a game. (The first instant replay review happened on Wednesday of this week. Umpires upheld a two-run homer by the Yankees' Alex Rodriguez.) One of the most famous missed calls was in game six of the 1985 World Series. Don Denkinger mistakenly called Jorge Orta of the Kansas City Royals safe at first in the ninth inning, starting a rally. The Royals went on to beat the St. Louis Cardinals in the game and took the World Series. Clearly, a single base hit can have as much of an impact as a home run.

For decades, MLB has been slow to adapt. The league is trying to show it can improve baseball with technology, but this half-baked version of instant replay will hurt more than it will help. If they want to appeal to today’s fans, step up the pace of the game. The easiest and most obvious way is to decrease the amount of time between pitches.

(The photo shows first baseman Albert Pujols of the St. Louis Cardinals hitting a home run against the San Diego Padres in May of this year; the photo is by SD Dirk of San Diego, CA via Flickr, using a Creative Commons license.)

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