This week saw the introduction of instant reply — a
technocratic advance many still consider blasphemy — in Major League
Baseball. Currently, the only calls
deemed debatable are homerun calls. But now that the surface has been cracked, is it not only a matter of time before
we are reviewing foul balls down the line, close plays at first and dare I say
the strike zone? Where does one draw the
line and how will this impact the overall game?
Ah yes, the ol’ slippery slope argument. If we do “x,” then “y” and “z” must follow. It’s an argument politicians have used for years to hold out against reforming everything from farm subsidies to gun ownership. But, the fact of the matter is that the argument holds no water.
Beyond that, however, is an even more important distinction when it comes to instant replay. The use of replay for this one small area of the game is a huge improvement over the old system.
Just this past week, replay was used to uphold an Alex Rodriguez home run and the game neither came to a screeching halt nor did the ghosts of long dead major leaguers suddenly come flying out of the ground to right some injustice that had been done to their memory. Replay equals innovation and evolution in the game.
In the old system, a bunch of middle aged men who saw the ball’s path from 300 feet away would get together and debate what had happened. Often, they got it wrong. So now, instead of paying the hundreds of thousands of dollars that would be necessary to put extra umps in the outfield, MLB came up with a suitable alternative.
No one who truly calls their self a baseball fan wants to see the abolition of the umpire. The call at home plate in a swirl of dust and dirt is as much a part of the game as the wooden bat and pinetar covered batting helmet.
But instant replay adds to the game. And in fact, in honor of its resounding success during its first week of use, I’d like to see it applied in other places where it’s never been seen before.
For instance, I’d like to see an instant replay of Vice Presidential nominee Sarah Palin’s speech at the Republican National Convention the other evening. Maybe then we can discover how someone who’s views so clearly fall outside the mainstream (creationism taught side by side with evolution?) has become an overnight media darling.
No matter what, instant replay is here to stay along with the DH and All-Star Games that have way too much of an impact on October baseball. Instant replay, though, that’s change we can believe in.