A recent announcement has slowly been trickling through baseball circles that the league is set to follow suit with the rest of the major professional sports in North America and implement the “instant replay”. Debate is already spreading like wildfire as to whether or not this a smart move on side of professional baseball. From a purely qualitative perspective, the vibe is mostly negative. Why? Mainly because adding in the instant replay will kill the sport!
A famous quote from Peter Golenbach; “Only boring people find baseball boring”.
I am sorry Mr. Golenbach, but you’re sadly mistaken in that assertion. Baseball viewership numbers have been in steady decline over the last few years (Nielsen), and this is not necessarily a symptom that is evident in other sports such as football and basketball. Part of the reason for this is that baseball’s heart and soul has been dying – literally. While the action-packed and in-your-face nature of football and basketball have been able to bring in a newer and younger generation of viewers, the slow-paced nature of baseball has not had the same allure, and as such viewers of the sport who are dying are not being replaced. There’s no easy way to say that.
In response to diminishing ratings, the MLB commission has decided that there is no better way to invoke greater engagement in the sport than by slowing it down with more replays. Okay, perhaps his goal isn’t to slow it down, but that is such an obvious side effect. Right now baseball has replay, but only for homeruns. The new proposal is to roll out more and more replays in baseball it will allegedly only apply to homeruns, foul/fair balls and caught/trapped balls in its first year – but, once the system is optimized it could be applied to anything and everything. The very notion of that last line makes me cringe.
What could make it work? Perhaps if the set-up was similar to that of the NFL, where a coach has a select number of challenges he is allowed to issue per game. That could help to mitigate long and arduous delays; but, let’s be honest with ourselves, this really is not going to happen. The replay will be implemented as an umpire’s discretionary tool. Did I forget to mention that there will be a group of over-weight umpires sitting in a central location reviewing every play, trying to earn a paycheque and prove their worth? Have another bag of corn-nuts – you know they will. Sorry, cheap shot, I know.
Would it really be worth it to you to sit through ten-minutes of a reviewed play just to see that ever-so-close out at first base by your least favourite player on the team be overturned? I’ve been a baseball fan all my life, and while I love the anticipation factor of the game, sitting and waiting for three or four replays an inning could suck the life out of the game for me. Truthfully, for all the times a player for Team A has been called out for something that could have won the game, that same player has likewise been called safe on a dodgy call that helped him win the game. The universe has a funny way of balancing itself out.
My hope is that there is enough outcry from the public that this doesn’t happen, but if it does I will continue to watch – it just means I might drink a few more beers, as there will be more opportunities for me to refill my glass.
… and that is the last word.