Sunday, October 23, 2011

Leave the Game Alone!

Anyone who has been a baseball fan for very long has been on both the up-side and the down-side of a terrible call by an umpire. Not just a a strike being called a ball, but a 'big' one, like what happened last night in Game 3 of the World Series when Cardinal Matt Holliday was called safe after being tagged on the shoulder before making it to first.

It was a bad call. A real bad one that led to a 4-run 4th inning for the Cardinals in what would go on to be a 16-7 victory over the Rangers in Texas. And in the aftermath there will no doubt be a great deal of talk about the value of the 'instant replay' to assist in making those close or controversial calls. Well, I am not one to call in to the local sports-line to air my view, nor will I write an email or even 'tweet' about it. But I do have a blog! So hey, for what it's worth, here is my opinion on expanding the use of video replay in Major League Baseball.

I'm against it, plain and simple. I know, I know, it could have changed the outcome of the '85 Series between the Cardinals and the Kansas City Royals. I wasn't in St. Louis back then, nor was I following baseball close enough that I remember the Don Denkinger blown call. But I've heard a lot about it, and as gut-wrenching as I'm sure it was, I maintain my position that baseball should not be sullied by expanding technology.

Baseball is a game that is very much determined by human heroism and human error. The manager makes a great move to the bullpen and he's the hero of the game. The manager puts in a pinch hitter and he strikes out in a critical at-bat; the manager needs to be fired! The players themselves make spectacular plays, or they throw the ball away and cost the team the game. But, you may say, that's the team manager and coaching staff, those are the players. The umpires though, they are a third party that shouldn't be able to determine the game by their errors.

Well, as much as I hate to see a bad call, and as much as I commiserate with the 'patrons of the game' that looked on as mighty Casey took strike one....

"...Kill him! Kill the umpire!" shouted someone from the stand;
And it's likely they'd a-killed him had not Casey raised his hand..."
--Casey at the Bat, by Ernest Thayer

.... I still don't think the 'answer' is to bring instant video replay to the game. In fact, I think the problem does not need an answer. Why not? Firstly, because if left to the human beings who play, manage and call the game, there is an element of charm to it, admittedly sometimes an agonizing one, but an element none-the-less that would be lost if the calls were given to the perfections of instant replay. Secondly, I think it all balances out. I think every team gets their equal share of tough breaks. I think a team destined to win the series or any given game for that matter, can't ultimately be beat by the umpires. The umps are part of the game of baseball. They make bad calls now and then. Period. Leave the game alone!

And really, think of the ramifications of expanding instant replay. Where is the line drawn with it? Just at controversial plays out in the field? Why? A missed ball or strike on a key pitch in the game can just as easily change the game's outcome. And if we're going to look at tape after every challenged play, really, why even have human umpires? Aren't we technologically advanced enough to have balls and strike called electronically, to let a computer yell a monotone "Safe" or "You are out of there," after a slide into home-plate? Thrilling, huh?

No, leave the game alone. Let the umpires do their job with or without their perfection and our satisfaction, and leave the video instant replays to taunt those of us watching at home. My dad (RIP) was a Little League manager for many years and a diehard Red Sox fan all his life. He always said the umpires can't beat you and I think he was right. Ultimately--with perhaps the rare exception-- the team who plays the best baseball is going to win the game. I'm willing to put up with that rare exception, be it on my side or not, to keep the game as it is, with all the perfections and imperfections of those involved, players, managers, coaching staff and umpires.

Play ball!

.... and Go Cardinals!

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