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Instant Replay Won't Work In Baseball

October 23, 2009 at 18:40:30
Specs: Microsoft Windows XP Home Edition, 2.596 GHz / 2038 MB

Here's why I think Instant Replay won't work for baseball.

What surprises me is that I have never heard any sportscaster discuss this reason - until I called a sports show this afternoon and was told that I have a very good point.

Let's set the stage by noting why Instant Replay works in American Football by using an example:

A player is running down the sideline with the ball and gets tackled at the 45. The play is over and the ball is spotted on the 45. It is then determined via Instant Replay that the player stepped out of bounds on the 21. No problem...spot the ball on the 21, put a few seconds back on the clock and run the next play. It's either one or the other...pretty black and white.

Now let's take an example in baseball and use a situation that seems to make sense to be considered as a "reviewable play" if they decide to implement Instant Replay: A Catch vs. a Trapped Ball. Reviewing that type of play seems pretty reasonable, even to me.

A "trapped ball", for those unfamiliar with the jargon, is where the player doesn't actually catch the ball with his glove, but instead traps it against the ground or some other object with his glove. If a ball is ruled "trapped" it is not an out - and therein lies the problem.

Let's say there is a runner on third with 1 out and a fly ball is hit to right field. The runner takes a few steps towards home and then waits to see if the ball is caught. Per the rules, if the ball is caught, the runner has to return to the base ("tag up") before he can attempt to advance. If the ball is not caught, he is free to advance without returning to the base.

So, the fly ball is hit to right, the right fielder has to dive to make the play and the umpire signals that he trapped the ball. At that point the runner that was leading off third advances to home, scores and the batter is safe at first base.

Enter Instant Replay. After the play is over, the officials check the Instant Replay and they determine that the ball was indeed caught. OK, so the batter is out. No problem. But what about the runner that was on third?

Is the offense allowed to appeal the play claiming that the runner didn't tag up? That wouldn't be fair since the runner followed the rules which allowed him advance after the umpire signaled "no catch".

Do they force the runner to go back to third? That's not fair either because now they've denied the runner to opportunity to tag up and score which he might have tried had the umpire signaled a catch.

Either way, they may have gotten the call right, but they've harmed the runner but not allowing him to do what he would have done had it been called correctly in the first place.

My point here is that baseball plays are not over just because a catch is made or a player is tagged. The play is not over until time is called and what happens at the beginning of a play has impact - by circumstance and by rule - as to what happens next and what decisions the players on the field make.

If there's a force at second and the defense tags the base, the runner is out right? What if the ump missed the fact that the first baseman tagged the batter, removing the force and requiring - by rule - that the runner be tagged to be put out? That runner might already be on his way to the dugout thinking he was out on the force when the Instant Replay says he's not. Who's to say that the tag would have been made? Who's to say he wouldn't have avoided the tag, try to advance to third, causing a wild throw which might have allowed him to score. You just don't know what might have happened had the right call been made, and you can't go back and "reconstruct" a baseball play like you can by putting the football on the 21 yard line.

Once again, the point is that you can't reverse a call if that call put a situation in place that either by rule or by "thought" made the others players on the field make certain decisions.


See More: Instant Replay Wont Work In Baseball

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#1
October 24, 2009 at 15:17:04

Very intelligent analysis, DerbyDad03.

In addition to slowing an already slow game to a crawl, and removing some of the human element from the game, for these and the above reasons, instant replay just doesn't seem the best fit for baseball.

But then again, given the use of instant replay in the NFL, NHL, NBA, rugby, cricket, rodeo, NASCAR and yes, even tennis, the use of instant replay in Major League Baseball seems to be a sign of the times.


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#2
October 24, 2009 at 16:48:50

I agree with Radix; good analysis.

But...

Although instant replay might be valuable in baseball, marriage or owing a cat, it just doesn't seem practical.

Skip


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#3
October 25, 2009 at 06:54:32

I'm not 100% against Instant Replay. I can see it working in certain situations.

Bases empty, play at first. The batter is either safe or out and reversing the call does nothing other than get the call right.

Home Run or Foul Ball. Either everybody scores, or the batter continues his at bat.

If baseball is to go the same direction as many other sports, with the ultimate goal of getting the call right, then that's fine.

However, similar to the *Infield Fly rule, which is only in effect when certain conditions are met on the field, the Instant Replay system would need criteria that set forth when any given play is reviewable or not. Football has certain plays that are not reviewable, but baseball would need criteria that set forth when the same play is reviewable and when it's not. That has the potential to be messy.

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* The Infield Fly rule is only in effect when there are fewer than two outs and a force play at third base.


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Related Solutions

#4
October 25, 2009 at 08:08:03

As I see it instant replay would have some value in some circumstances. You mentioned tennis as one sport using it.

I am not sure about this but I believe the player asking for a review has a limited number of reviews. This forces the players to use discretion when calling for a review. This is already being done in baseball, to a degree. When a catcher or pitcher wants the opinion of a line umpire to determine if the batter actually swung at the pitch. While there is no official penalty for excessive use of this request, we all know that if you piss of the plate ump what will happen.

Some form of instant replay is necessary in baseball if the integrity of the game is to survive. Just this week I read where past practice of using some less experienced umpires in the world series is being suspended due to some bad calls in the playoffs.

American fans have a sense of fair play when it comes to the outcome of sporting events. So I think some additional replay is coming. Actually, I thought replay was already in place on home runs. Maybe it was for a trial period.

Derby, your analysis of certain scenarios is correct but the conclusion is faulty, IMHO. While you can't un-ring the bell you can make the outcome fairer. That is better than the current method.

On a related topic I really think the biggest problem currently facing baseball is the calling of balls and strikes. I can't for the life of me understand why no one has come up with an easy way for balls and strike to be called electronically.

Watching on TV you can see the constant barrage of bad calls. This affects to outcome of the game even more than your examples.


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#5
October 25, 2009 at 17:10:20

re: your analysis ... is correct but the conclusion is faulty

OTH, while I respect your right to call my conclusion faulty, I, of course, completely disagree. ;-)

Let's take a more detailed look at one of situations that I offered:

The fly ball where a trap was signaled but a replay shows it was caught.

In my OP, I only brought up the simplest of the possibilities - a runner on third. Consider the situation where there are 2 or more runners on base.

Depending on where those runners are at the time of alleged trap, as well as the rules relating to forces in effect at the time, the outfielder is going to make a decision as to where to throw the ball. Based on that decision, the runners are also going to make certain decisions. Those decisions are going to lead to other decisions, and so on until the play is finally over.

Based on the multitude of decisions being made by a multitude of players - and the results of those decisions - there is a multitude of outcomes ranging from every runner being put out to every runner scoring.

IYHO, what would the "fair" outcome be if the ball was subsequently ruled a catch? How would you un-ring the cacophony of bells that started to ring as soon as the trap was signaled?

I've coached baseball and softball for many, many years and I've seen enough outs made and runs scored after the initial catch or tag to know that in many cases I wouldn't be able to unravel the final results if the initial call was reversed. I know that what did happen might not have happened, but I can't possible know what would have happened.

I wish I could think of a "fair" way to put it all back together but I can't. I am, however, certainly open to suggestions as to how to make it work.

re: Actually, I thought replay was already in place on home runs.

The current use of Instant Replay in baseball is for "boundary calls" only -

http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/news/...

"...video will be used only on so-called "boundary calls," such as determining whether fly balls went over the fence, whether potential home runs were fair or foul and whether there was fan interference on potential home runs."


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#6
October 25, 2009 at 17:57:04

Derby

The "boundary calls" rule is not always used when it should be. let us use that as a starting point.

Man on first and the next batter hits a ball that hits on the yellow line, indicating a home run. The outfielder rightfully plays the ball off the wall on one hop and the batter takes second base. The runner on first advances to third.

On a replay the ball is called a home run. No problem with un-ringing that bell.

I agree that some plays would be harder to unravel if a replay reverses the original call. That said, rules could be worked out. To guess what would have happened IF the correct call HAD been made is like saying I would have bowled a 300 game if I hadn't left the five pin in the first frame.


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#7
October 26, 2009 at 00:39:47

BTW, whats the score?

Now I know why I quit watching Sports. there's only POOR sports left.

There is nothing to learn from someone who already agrees with you.


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#8
October 26, 2009 at 08:10:13

OTH: That said, rules could be worked out.

That's possible. What types of rules would you put in place to handle situations like I described?

If fan input was requested on how to deal with the complex situation I described Response # 5, what would your suggestion be? (I've made a suggestion below, but I'd like to hear your's (and other's) as well.)

re: On a replay the ball is called a home run. No problem with un-ringing that bell.

I'm not sure why you brought that up. In Response # 3 I mentioned a couple of similar calls that I had no problem with. As I said, I am not against Instant Replay in black and white, cut and dry situations. It's the "what if" situations where I see no fair way of reversing the call.

As I said earlier:

The Instant Replay system would need criteria that set forth when any given play is reviewable or not. There would need to be criteria that set forth when the same type of play is reviewable and when it's not.

For example:

"Instant Replay will be used to determine a Catch vs. a Trap except when there are runners on base."

If those are the types of exceptions that will be built into the system, then I'm fine with it. However, it's going to take an awful lot of exceptions to deal with all of the different situations that could make any given play reviewable or not.

This, of course, leads us to the next question:

If the use of Instant Replay is going come saddled with a boat-load of exceptions as to when it will not be in effect, why not just live with the current system and let it be part of the game?

The Human Factor will be part of the game whenever the exceptions are in effect, so why muddy the waters and only take it out some of the time?


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#9
October 30, 2009 at 10:14:47

Derby

Did you see this article?

http://sports.yahoo.com/mlb/news?sl...


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#10
October 30, 2009 at 11:35:08

Disclaimer: I don't actually watch baseball.

If armchair managers and bored sports announcers can use modern technology against the game, why shouldn't the game adapt?

The umpires are there to enforce the rules of the game, nothing more, nothing less. But mistakes will happen; no system in infallible, and the question becomes how to mitigate the damage of a blown call. Would you prefer replay if it's used to "reset" the game to just before the play in question? That seems like it'd be the simplest way to deal with your complaints.


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#11
October 30, 2009 at 14:33:51

re: Did you see this article?

Yes.

Why do you ask?


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#12
October 30, 2009 at 15:24:20

More examples of instances where instant replay would have worked.

In response to razor's comments I would prefer that umpires use instant replace when a manager calls for it and if, after viewing the tape, they reverse the call just place the players where they would have been had the correct call been made originally.

Not a whole lot different than when a fly ball bounces over the wall and is declared a ground rule double. Many times runners have already advanced further than allowed and are sent back.

The article I linked to suggested that each team might be given two opportunities to call for a viewing of the tapes per game. That would be a good place to start.


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#13
October 30, 2009 at 15:56:28

re: That seems like it'd be the simplest way to deal with your complaints.

Complaints? I have nothing to complain about. I have reasons why I think instant replay won't work. The complaints are coming from those that feel instant replay should be expanded.

re: Would you prefer replay if it's used to "reset" the game to just before the play in question?

No. In the 8th inning of last night's game, the "play in question" was a missed call at first base after a force was made at 2nd base. You can't reset the game to just before the "play in question" because what happened just before was that a runner was forced out at 2nd. So I guess you would have to go back 2 "just befores" and put the batter back at the plate and the runner who was legitimately put out back on first.

The defense won't be happy because they made a legitimate out at 2nd which was taken way because of a bad call that was made after that out was made.

Now, keep in mind that this is a fairly simple situation. Let's complicate it a bit.

Would you send the batter back to plate and reverse the 2 outs that started a triple play if the bad call was made on the third out of the play? Is that fair to the defense?

Would you send the batter back to the plate and take away the 3 runs that scored prior to a bad call at 3rd on the batter who hit a bases loaded triple? Is that fair to the offense?

Not only can't you figure what might have happened if the correct call had been made at the beginning of a play, you can't (fairly) take away everything that happen before the bad call was made.

In my OP I said that I've never heard a sportscaster discuss the problem with "rebuilding a play" and figuring out what would have happened if a call is reversed. Well, about 2 thirds of the way through this mp3, you'll hear Sports Illustrated Senior Baseball Writer Tom Verducci express the exact same argument. He was on the Dan Patrick show today discussing the incorrect calls from last night's game.

At least I now know that if I'm crazy for espousing this argument, I've got some pretty good company.



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#14
October 30, 2009 at 17:37:49

re: More examples of instances where instant replay would have worked.

There are lots of instances where instant replay will work. I even said as much in Response # 8 when I suggested they use something like "Instant Replay will be used to determine a Catch vs. a Trap except when there are runners on base."

The problem exists in all the other myriad of instances where it won't work.

Everyone talks about "instant replay" as if the answer is Yes or No when in reality it's an essay question. You have to look much, much deeper into the issue.

Let's look at the alleged "double play" from last night where Utley was called out. Taken in isolation, you could certainly reverse that call, put Utley on 1st and have the inning continue with 2 outs. That's pretty cut and dry.

Now let's expand on that situation and put a runner on 3rd. The force at 2nd is out # 2 and the incorrect call at 1st is out # 3. Everybody walks off the field, including the runner who was on his way from 3rd to home.

To set the stage for what's coming up, let's assume the call at first had been made correctly. Out # 2 is made at 2nd, Utley is safe at 1st but the play is not yet over. The runner at 3rd now attempts to score. The first baseman throws the ball to the catcher, putting into a place a whole bunch of possibilities.

1 - The runner could be tagged out
2 - The tag could be missed and the runner scores
3 - The ball could be overthrown and not only does the run score but Utley advances to 2nd
4 - etc.

OK, we all know the wrong call was made last night, so let's reverse it, keeping in mind that we added the runner on third who is now in the dugout.

The runner at 2nd is still out, but Utley is safe at 1st. The runner that was on 3rd comes out of the dugout looking to you to tell him where to go. Do you know if he would have scored had Utley been called safe in the first place? Do you know if he would have been tagged? Do you know if the ball would have been overthrown? Nope...you don't, so you don't know where to put him.

So how do you write the Instant Replay rules? You can't possibly account for every situation involving base runners, the number of outs, etc. when you write the rules. How would write the rule that allows you reverse the isolated Utley call but also accounts for those cases where there is a runner on 2nd or 3rd at the time?

re: In response to razor's comments I would prefer that umpires use instant replace when a manager calls for it and if, after viewing the tape, they reverse the call just place the players where they would have been had the correct call been made originally.

How do you know where the players would have been? That has been my argument all along.

Please refer to the example I gave much earlier in this about the runner on 3rd and fly ball to right. Do you know for a fact whether or not the runner on third would have tagged up on a catch or stayed on the bag? That would depend on the speed of the runner, the arm strength of the outfielder, how many runs ahead or behind the team was at the time, etc. So many factors enter into the decisions made by the players that it would be impossible to know where the players would have been if the correct call was made.

Sure, there are instances where the placement is cut and dry - your ground rule double is a perfect example - and that is why they are sent back. There is no question as to how many bases they should be awarded. There is no decision that you would have to guess at.

re: The article I linked to suggested that each team might be given two opportunities to call for a viewing of the tapes per game. That would be a good place to start.

That has nothing to do with the issues I have presented.

Whether the teams get to decide when to throw the challenge flag or the umpires say "I'm not sure I made the right call" or an official in the booth buzzes down to field or God sends a lightening bolt down to alert everyone, the issue of how to figure out what might have happened would still exist. How you decide what initiates the review has nothing to do with what you do after the review.


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#15
October 31, 2009 at 16:02:18

But you keep saying it won't work. I agree it may not work in some situations. In which case they don't need to use it.

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#16
November 1, 2009 at 08:04:31

I hate to see instant replay in any sport. The skill of the referees/umpires should just be part of the game.

If the NFL would quit being cheap "illegitimate children" and hire full time referees, the number of blown calls would go down. Just my 2 cents.


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#17
November 1, 2009 at 17:54:28

re: But you keep saying it won't work.

Would you be happier if I had said "expanded instant replay" won't work?

We know it works in situations like A-Rod's home run last night when the ball hit the camera, but when bad calls are made at a base, everybody uses the generic "Baseball needs instant replay" so that's what I am referring to.

re: I agree it may not work in some situations. In which case they don't need to use it.

My point all along has been - How do you write the rules that will govern it's use?

Every time a bad call is made, people start yelling for instant replay. Sure, it will work to reverse that specific bad call, but it won't work in terms of dealing with everything else that may have happened before and/or after the bad call.

There would have to be so many exceptions and specific situations where it would be in effect or not in effect that the umpires would have to confer and maybe even pull out the book before they could even go into the room to review the play.

If a certain type of call is reviewable with a runner on first but not reviewable with runners on first and third, have we maintained the integrity of the game or have we made a farce of it?


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#18
November 1, 2009 at 19:34:43

You make it complicated when it isn't. 30 minutes ago there was an instance where a Philidelphia player crossed the plate without actually touching it. At the same time another player was advancing.

If the player at home were called out, what is going to complicated about that. There were two outs already so the inning would be over. Even if there were less than two outs then the player would be out and the other player would keep his base.

If replay can't sort out a play then don't use replay. Is that so hard?


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#19
November 2, 2009 at 06:48:49

re: If the player at home were called out, what is going to complicated about that.

Nothing, and I have been saying that all along - that type of play is cut and dry, there is no "what if" involved. Just like a catch vs. a trap with no one on base. I have no issue with instant replay being used in simple cases.

re: If replay can't sort out a play then don't use replay.

So, is that an answer to my question "How would you write the rules?"

Would this work?

"The umpires will determine, at the conclusion of the action and after time has been called, if reversing a call would have an unclear impact on action prior or subsequent to that call. If it is determined that no firm conclusion can be determined as to the placement of players, then the play will be deemed not reviewable."



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