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I didn’t stay up for the whole Brewers/Padres game on Wednesday night, but reports indicate it had a blown-call finish. With the tying run in scoring position, Martin Maldonado hit a fair ball that bounced back into him, and he was called out on batter’s interference to end the game. Replays showed that Maldonado’s foot was still in the batter’s box, and he should not have been called out.
It’s another disappointing reminder that Major League Baseball is woefully behind other sports in using instant replay. Replay can only be used for home runs at present, and last we heard Bud Selig was saying it might be expanded to review fair/foul calls and trapped balls, perhaps even sometime this year.
Trapped balls almost never happen, and close fair/foul calls probably happen a lot less than we think, but it’s a good start. It seems like it would make more sense for replay be expanded to situations that happen more frequently – the obvious case being outs on bases (mostly first) and home plate. Then we could eventually get to other infrequent plays, like the batter’s interference call that nailed Maldonado.
It’s hard to gauge, but it feels like momentum has shifted on replay in recent years, and relatively few commentators strongly oppose it. Bill Schroeder has been a long time replay skeptic, but he gets pretty antsy when a call is blown – like when the umpires appeared to err on Carlos Gomez’ homer/foul ball earlier in the series. It looks like Schroeder is persuadable.
One complaint that is usually raised about instant replay is something along the lines of, “it will make the game longer, and that’s annoying.” I’ve never found that to be a convincing argument. So it makes the game a little longer – what, do you have some place you need to be? Is there an appointment you need to make? Then go. The rest of us will adjust to the slight delay, the way fans of football and basketball have.
If we wanted to watch a crisply-paced game, we wouldn’t be watching baseball in the first place. Being a baseball fan means sitting through periods where nothing fabulous happens. If you can’t handle a sport without a predictable time constraint, nothing is stopping you from watching soccer.
There will be plenty of kinks to work out in expanding replay. Do umpiring crews need an additional member to be the replay guy? Can managers ask for replays like football coaches? There will be a learning curve, but it will be a glorious day when replay is expanded to the point that blown calls are less frequent than batter’s interference.