Good news, sports fans: Baseball is about to get even more boring.
On Thursday, Commissioner Bud Selig announced that Major League Baseball plans to expand the use of instant replay, allowing managers to challenge virtually any umpire's call aside from balls and strikes.
In other words, add instant replay to the list of time-wasters that have slowed the modern game to a crawl: Pitchers who treat every pitch like it’s the most important ever thrown; batters who can’t bat without stepping out of the box, adjusting batting gloves, spitting, scratching, digging in, and then doing it all again before the next pitch; catchers who can’t give signs without getting them first from the manager; and the endless parade of relief pitchers, all of whom need to warm up on the mound, despite the fact they’ve already warmed up in the bullpen.
Can you tell I love baseball?
The truth is, I do love baseball. But like a beautiful but demanding woman, it’s starting to get on my nerves.
My colleague Bill Shaikin on Thursday explained the basic outlines of the new system, which could be in place next season:
Under the proposal, managers would be able to challenge three calls per game -- one in the first six innings, two more in the final three innings. The challenged calls would be reviewed by officials at league offices in New York, not by the umpires on site at the game.
Atlanta Braves President John Schuerholz said 89% of missed calls would be reviewable under the new system, according to an Associated Press report.
To which I have just one simple question: Why?
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That’s stupid, you say. The answer is obvious: We shouldn’t allow umpires to blow calls and affect games when the technology exists to correct them.
Well, allow me to go all old-school on you, bunkie: Blown calls are often the best part of the game. What would you rather see: The umpire waiting for some unseen overlord to check a call, or an enraged Earl Weaver kicking dirt on him? Or Lou Piniella chucking second base into center field? (OK, Weaver's dead and Piniella ain't managing no more, but you get the idea.)
In fact, I would argue that instant replay is the devil’s tool; it’s the Antichrist of sports. Americans hate lawyers, yet we’re allowing instant replay to turn our games into courtroom dramas.
Look at football: Endless reviews of plays from endless angles; announcers babbling about the need for “incontrovertible visual evidence” for a call to be overturned; games dragging on and on. Worse, fans now argue not about a blown call on the field but about a blown call from the replay official! Refereeing has become like those Russian dolls; just when you think you’ve got it, you don’t.
I say enough is enough. Why the quixotic quest for “fairness” and “getting it right”? What’s so wrong with getting it wrong?
Bad calls aren’t killing baseball. Slow play is killing baseball.
And instant replay will just make it worse.