The Wide World of Sports: Instant Replay Drowning Baseball


Parker Abate

Parker Abate , Columnist

Baseball is America’s pastime. It may not be the most watched sport in 2015, but it is the foundation of American sports. Baseball is and always will be my favorite sport to sit down and watch, but Major League Baseball seems to be going in the wrong direction. It is getting away from its roots. Why? The newly implemented instant replay rules have made it less exciting at times.

Baseball was the last of the four major sports to administer instant replay. This was not by accident. Baseball became what it is today because of the human element. Baseball is one of the very few sports that requires an official to be involved and make a call each and every play. Whether it is the home plate umpire calling a ball or strike, or an ump in the field making a safe or out call, the umpires are embroiled in each play.

This instant replay is leading baseball down the wrong path. The umpires impacting each and every play is what helped build this game and made it great.

Naysayers may argue replay helps correct umpires when they get it wrong and offers for a more accurate call of the game. This is true. However, umpires occasionally getting a call wrong every now and then is what makes baseball, baseball. The game used to rely solely on the human eye.

Just a few years ago, fans went to the ballpark yearning for a manager-umpire argument. The crowd would cheer on their respective manager, instigating him to keep going with his argument. The rule allowing of managers to challenge any umpire call (aside from balls and strikes), has taken away from manager-umpire interaction that fans have loved for so long. It has also taken away from the fans’ interaction with the game.

Major League Baseball fans have always loved ejections, just like fans of the National Hockey League love when players fight. Imagine if the NHL banned fighting. Ruckus is the key part to the game and occurs while play is stopped. It keeps the crowd on their toes, and it entertains whomever is watching at home as well.

MLB instant replay was also expected to make the game go faster. Baseball is an incredible game, but even those who adore it are aware that it occasionally progresses slower than most sports. The replay that was supposed to make the game more efficient, has done the opposite. According to FiveThirtyEight Sports, as of September 7, 2014, the 2014 season saw 2,031 minutes of instant replay. This time amounts to about a day-and-a-half. This is more time than Major League Baseball anticipated, and it has slowed the game down.

Baseball is a game of routine and rhythm. All players are in the zone and on their toes at all times. There is a new play every couple of seconds. Anyone who has ever played or watched baseball knows that any kind of interruption can mess with a player’s head.

The great Yogi Berra once said that “baseball is ninety percent mental.” Anything that messes with your mind during a game can affect how you play. Replays that are last minute can interrupt a pitcher’s rhythm mid-game. This, once again, changes the baseball tradition.

Replays have shown that umpires make calls correctly more than half of the time. As I said before, the occasional incorrect call by an umpire is what makes baseball pure. The players and coaches argue, some get ejected, the fans roar, and the game continues. These players and coaches continue to rely on these umpires that just ejected member(s) of the team.

Is there an upside to this replay? For sure. But this is not the game it once was. Not only is baseball getting away from its roots, but it is also losing its tag as the purest sport there is. The human element is what made baseball America’s pastime. Taking the humanity out of baseball is saddening for true baseball fans everywhere. I’d take the no replay days from 2007 over the current policy any day. Those days were what made baseball, baseball.