Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Instant Change or Instant Problem?

A recent announcement by Major League Baseball regarding a move to introduce more instant replay into the game comes as more than a surprise given baseball's reluctance to change, especially when it comes to decisions by the umpires.
The new proposal will not review the calling of balls and strikes, but it will, if approved, review most plays in the field, including calls at home plate.
With most major sports, including pro football, basketball, hockey and tennis, offering instant replay to help their officials make what is hoped to be the right calls, the introduction of reviewing umpire's calls in baseball should be brought along slowly, starting at the minor league level so that if/when it comes to big league parks, it will be a change that umpires, players, managers and the media will be comfortable with.


add umpires: Opponents of more instant replay point out that the addition of stopping the game to review video tape will slow down a game that has gradually slowed down already. Most games now average more than  three hours, some closer to four, especially if the game goes into extra innings. Maybe teams should consider starting night games earlier to accommodate the lateness that would affect  families with young children, and deadlines for newspaper beat writers and television news programs.


last add umpires: Dodgers announcer Vin Scully has said more than once that over the course of a season the umpires get 99% of their calls right.


add change: One of reasons the pace of a baseball game has slowed was illustrated rather well during the Dodgers' visit to St. Louis last month. Shelby Miller, the Cardinals starting pitcher, had to leave the game after being hit by a line drive on the elbow. He had thrown just two pitches to the Dodgers Carl Crawford.
St. Louis was forced to bring in a new pitcher. Fifteen or 20 years ago, that  pitcher would have been a long-reliever who could pitch between four and six innings before giving way to the short relief pitchers in the late innings.
But long relief pitchers have gone with the way of complete games and the ability to bunt. They are nearly extinct, thanks in large part to pitch counts. The Cardinals were constantly changing pitchers every one or two innings because none could pitch longer and, the use of the bullpen so early affected the Cardinals the rest of the series. The Dodgers won three out of four games.

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