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Friday, August 16, 2013

Play It Again, Bud!

Comedian Chris Rock mocked people who want credit for doing things that they are supposed to be doing in his 1996 HBO stand-up special, “Bring the Pain”. While the central theme of this segment of his show was a controversial, ethnic cultural commentary, this offshoot of Rock’s routine was not lost on the audience. 

“’I take care of my kids!’ You’re supposed to take care of your kids! … What do you want? A cookie!?!? … ‘I’ve never been to jail!’ You’re not supposed to go to jail, you low-expectation having motherfucker!”

This classic comedy is what came to mind when Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig announced that a proposal was put forward to expand MLB’s use of instant replay, expected to be approved by the owners. By “expand”, I mean actually make it meaningful and correct the bulk of common umpiring errors.

Caution: Contains strong language and graphic descriptions of adult situations. Viewer discretion is advised.

If you regularly read this blog, you know that I pull no punches with my general disapproval of Bud Selig. Still, even a broken clock is right twice per day. Selig and company, in my opinion, took a significant, historic step forward with this announcement.

Similar to the NFL, which began using instant replay in 1986, managers may challenge a call once during the first six innings of a game and twice after the sixth inning. Managers will not lose a challenge if they are correct. While I have not read some of the fine details, this sounds, on the surface, like a sensible system to ensure that critical calls are made properly.

MLB calls its replay expansion historic. The NFL called it "status quo" in the 1980s. 

The problem for MLB and Selig is that the sport has endured countless egregious missed calls in key, potentially historic situations that repeatedly put a stain on the game. Selig rigorously defended the effect of the “human element” in lending to the game’s historic charm. MLB found little public support among people not eligible for Social Security and Medicare. Baseball is a sport that is heavily rooted in tradition, but MLB has been of the position that tradition need not give way to common sense.

The NFL, which has had a reputation for evolving with technology, improving its product when the opportunity presents itself, and (drumroll) solving problems quickly when they arise, began using instant replay 27 years ago. After a minority of owners suspended the use of replay in the mid-1990s because it slowed the game down (and some teams were burned more than others on overturned calls), the league refined the process in the late-90s and led the organized sports world in the implementation and use of replay.

The NBA followed suit 11 years ago.  Even college football, also very rooted in tradition, implemented instant replay in the last of all of its major programs seven years ago. Here we are in 2013, approaching a half-century after man walked on the moon, and baseball is incapable of calling a runner out at first base when a fielder with the ball stepped on the bag first.

SAFE!!!! 1

MLB still needs formal approval from 75 percent of the league’s 30 owners in November plus agreement from the umpires and the players association for the video challenge system to go into effect in the 2014 MLB season. I’ve watched MLB bungle enough alley-oops in the past to leave the door open for the possibility that someone tosses a monkey wrench into the gears of change. In addition, we have yet to see tangible evidence of how the replay system will affect actually game play.

Catastrophe aside, baseball has finally moved into the 21st century. It was just more than a decade after the century started. It should have happened years ago. Bud Selig gets no extra credit for doing what he was supposed to do long before this season.

MLB finally does the fans a favor. Was this the day of Bud Selig's daughter's wedding? 2
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