Cue Chewbacca: Instant Replay in Baseball Begins Tomorrow (or Maybe the Next Day)

And so it begins.

Instant replay

in baseball. On Thursday. Or Friday. Depending on where you’re playing and who you’re playing. Leave it to major league baseball to make a big deal about this, then screw up its introduction.

Don’t get your hopes us. Instant replay is only going to be used on what are being called boundary calls, i.e., whether a home run ball was fair or foul, or whether a home run ball was over the fence (or yellow line) or not, or whether a fan interfered with a potential home run call. So there’s not going to be any replay to make up for those calls the umpires really miss, like that fiasco involving A.J. Pierzynski of the Chicago White Sox last Sunday – really, truly, I have a friend who used to be an umpire, and I generally support umpires, but Doug Eddings’ dumb ass should have been fired way back in October of 2005 after the last fiasco between him and Pierzynski.

In theory, the replay idea for home runs is a good one. Most games are now televised, so there are television cameras throughout each and every ballpark; thus, it ought to be pretty easy to see if an umpire got the call wrong, or not. But there have been several instances this year involving the Astros, and with games played inside Minute Maid Park, where replays weren’t readily available for a home run call. Sure, there have been replays, but because of camera angles, that stupid-ass outfield design, and Drayton’s five million advertising signs which dot every inch of the stadium, there have been instances where the flight of the ball and its impact on the wall have been difficult to determine. There was one game earlier this year where the Fox Sports crew took about half-an-hour to get a blow-up of the video showing where the ball hit the wall. Which leads me to ask: Is the game going to be halted for half-an-hour while the crew chief waits for a good replay?

I suppose my big problem lies in the rush to implement this thing. Why do it with only 30 games left in the season? MLB says they’re doing this so that there are no problems in the playoffs. But why not wait until next year so that there is an entire season to iron out the kinks in the process before the playoffs start? I’ve got to agree with Detroit Tigers pitcher Kenny Rogers in that this all just an overreaction to Alex Rodriguez and the New York Yankees losing a home run on a blown call earlier this season. “It overshot the mark by far just because, what, in a Yankee game someone didn’t get a homer?” Rogers told the Associated Press. “Please. It’s happened thousands of times.”

Yeah, but those thousands of times involved the Washington Nationals, or the Kansas City Royals. Only the Yankees matter.

You’ll also notice that the replay won’t be available for every game. It’s only available for games that are being broadcast. That’s because of how the whole review process works: video from BROADCAST feeds will be gathered at MLB offices in New York City; there, it will be monitored by a technician and either an umpire supervisor or a retired umpire. Then, if the crew chief AT THE GAME decides the replay needs to be reviewed, his crew will leave the field, go to a secure location, and review the play with the assistance of the technician and the umpire in New York. And for the call to be reversed, there has to be clear and convincing video evidence – which means there is no way that home run in last night’s Astros game would have been reversed because there was just no clear and convincing evidence. Then the final determination will be up to the umpire crew at the stadium. Any manager who then challenges the call after the review will be ejected.

Thus, if the game is not being televised, as could happen with a game between the Nationals and the Pirates, there will be no review of the call because there is no video in New York. But it is the umpiring crew at the stadium who reviews the replays and decides whether to change the call. So if this is the case, why must the video be fed to New York then fed back to the stadium in question? To go with the Chewbacca Defense, it just doesn’t make sense. So while the Pirates might actually have the in-house DiamondVision crew doing an internal video feed of the game, which can be reviewed by the umpire, those can’t because the video can’t be sent to New York.

This just brings me back to Kenny Rogers. This is only being done because some umpire fucked over Alex Rodriguez and the New York Yankees. The whole replay plan appears to be poorly thought-out, and I just don’t understand the rush. Trust me on this: Fans are going to bitch about a bad call, but if baseball didn’t collapse after the St. Louis Cardinals were robbed of the 1985 World Series because of one of the worst blown calls in baseball history, then it will survive a blown home run call this postseason.

I’m not against replay. I just want it to have an actual plan where everything has been thought through. I want MLB to have the kind of plan in place for replay that the Tampa Bay Rays had in planning their current baseball roster. Instead, I get the feeling that MLB’s current replay plan is the result of the same kind of half-assed thinking that gave baseball the designated hitter, another failed baseball franchise in Washington, D.C., interleague play, and the roster of the 2008 Houston Astros.

But then again, I should know not to expect any better from an organization that is run by a former car salesman. -- John Royal

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