Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Instant Replay...Again...

Is this coming to MLB?
Yes, I am completely aware that it has been over four months since I last blogged.  It's funny - I actually do most of my blogging while I am in school; there's just something about being busy that allows me to concentrate and fire these things off, even in long form.  -- J.L.

Instant replay in a large form is coming to Major League Baseball, and I don't like it one bit.  I am but one man, and I plan to stand athwart history, yelling "stop!" (ok, so I probably butchered that William F. Buckley quote).

I actually covered most of my issues regarding full fledged replay over three years ago after a particularly controversial call in Miami allowed the Phillies to eventually escape and win a game against the Marlins.  The hooting and hollering for replay was very loud then, but Bud Selig wisely (how often does that word get applied to him?) avoided putting it in baseball at the time.  

Such wisdom went out the window last week, however, and while some or even many are applauding this "evolution" (although I know of at least one guy who isn't), it is going to be a system that will spectacularly and disastrously fail.  Consider the following:

1) Managers will get three "challenges" per game, but the first one can only take place between innings one and six.  The other two will be from the seventh inning until the conclusion of the game (how delightfully vague!).  I swear the NFL planted advisers to Bud, because this is the height of asininity.  No manager is able to see the play up close, nor are there any "eyes" up in the booth to talk to the manager over his headset to say "hey, challenging is a good (or bad) idea".  It will rely completely upon the emotion of the player who thinks (rightly or wrongly) that he got screwed on the call.  In other words, the players will call the shots. Baseball is a different game, and the NFL-ization of replay is a horrendous attempt at superimposition of another model.

2) Balls and strikes and traps are NOT subject to review.  That means no foul tips either.  The fact that there is selective review makes this a lukewarm system and will satisfy no one, except Bud, who fell for the Politician's Fallacy like an anvil.  I want a laser system for balls and strikes.  Keep the home plate umpire for calls at the plate and foul tips and the like, but if programming for a strike zone can be done in MLB: The Show, then it can be done in life too.  

3) As I said in the post from three years ago, I don't like using the "human element" defense, but the "human element" will show up no matter what happens.  Humans are designing the technology, humans are reviewing the plays and making the calls.  So there is no perfect system, and even Candide would have to admit that replay is not "the best of all possible worlds."  The way to solve it is to hold umpires accountable for crappy calls, especially those who are consistently bad.  If players get demoted and managers get fired, then the same should happen for MLB umpires.  It's only fair, and "fairness" is the big buzzword of the past few years, after all.

4) What to do about base placement on fair/foul calls.  This is the real issue.  And a Pandora's Box.  No assumptions can be made.  Ever.  Why?  Because it is a judgment call.  And replay is supposed to relieve judgment calls.  All this does is bring us back around to the problem that prompted the calls for replay in the first place.  

Down with replay in MLB!

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