How much is too much?

At the moment, baseball's replay reviews are limited to home run calls. The usual argument against expanding replay goes something like, "What are they going to do? Have a computer call every ball and strike?"

Well, if a computer could accurately call every ball and strike, yes, they should. But the technology doesn't exist for that.

It does exist to review safe/out calls on the bases (like the one in Detroit on Wednesday) and fair/foul calls on batted balls (like the one umpire Phil Cuzzi called incorrectly in the Yankees' favor in last year's ALDS vs. Joe Mauer of the Twins).

You also could use replay to determine if a ball was trapped or caught by a fielder. Those three would be a good place to start.

Pick a system,

any system

There are two types of replay systems currently in use in the sports world: ones in which coaches (NFL) and players (tennis) can challenge calls and ones in which umpires (baseball), on-site officials (NBA) or league officials (NHL) can review calls in limited circumstances.

Some proponents of expanded replay in baseball would like to see a manager's challenge be instituted. Sounds good. How about one per game?

It would add an element of strategy - when should the manager use his challenge? Did he blow it by using it too early? - and since managers would likely want to save it for a huge spot, most games would probably be challenge-free.

The other idea is to have a fifth umpire stationed in a replay booth. That umpire would signal to the field umpires when he wants to review a play based on what appears to be a missed call. He would have the power to overturn it.

Either system could have prevented what happened in Detroit.

Time is on our side

Baseball games are already too long (just ask umpire Joe West). Commissioner Bud Selig wants to shorten the time of games, not lengthen them.

There's no doubt the booth system would increase the time of some games. Unless baseball made another rule change at the same time: No arguing once the decision is made.

Players and managers would have to be polite. They can ask an umpire to review a situation if they feel a rule has been violated. Or they can institute a replay challenge if that's the system just by throwing an (officially licensed and MLB-sponsored) replay flag.

But the quaint custom of going nose-to-nose with an umpire because that's the way it's always been done? Banned. Violators are subject to immediate suspension and loss of pay. You have a beef about an umpire's strike zone? Write him a nasty note after the game. Just keep the game itself moving.

What about the vaunted 'human element'?

Let's put it this way: Say someone at the IRS makes a mistake and accidentally cheated you out of your tax refund the way Joyce made a mistake and accidentally cheated Galarraga out of a perfect game. Would you say, "Well, it's the human element. I guess I'll go live in a box for a while."

No, you would insist on accuracy. That's really all expanded replay would do for baseball. It would decrease the number of bad umpire calls. How can that be a bad thing exactly?


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