Fortunately, this year’s baseball World Series was a showcase for David Ortiz’ splendid hitting, not bad umpiring. The outcome of no games were affected by blown calls, as in past World Series and playoffs. In fact, one obvious bad call at second base in Game 1 was reversed after the men in blue huddled.
The umps’ willingness to confer was refreshing and welcome. It showed they were more concerned with fairness and the integrity of the game than with sparing one of their colleagues some embarrassment. And the reaction of the players (after initial protests, even the Cardinals, the team on the losing side, agreed it was the proper call) showed the importance of taking the time to get it right.
But starting next year, the umps will have more than one another’s help to prevent mistakes (which, being human, they all make). They’ll have cameras. After years of resistance, especially from Commissioner Bud Selig, Major League Baseball will finally join the other major sports leagues and allow video replay.
In the past, the league has said that if it did introduce replay, it would be slowly and on a limited basis. But now it’s ready to use it right away for everything except balls and strikes (where it would be impractical). And in the same way football does, with challenges (at least two each game) by managers.
We’re not sure this is the best way to do it, or if it’s necessary. For one thing, it would further slow down the game, the length of which is already a problem for many people. It might be better to live with the inevitable mistakes during the regular season (or at least until September, when the games take on extra meaning and drama as teams battle for a playoff spot). Replays could be limited to the playoffs and World Series.
Also, the need for manager challenges could be obviated by having an off-field official reviewing every play and, after a questionable one, calling time out, looking at it more closely and making a quick, final decision.
For now, though, the fact that baseball has chosen to use cameras is more important than the how and when. It can always change the process after seeing how it works. But within a few years, we’re sure that replays will be considered part of the game and people will wonder what all the fuss was about.