Further review: Don't be so hasty

  • Article by: MICHAEL RAND , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 15, 2011 - 12:44 AM

Baseball says it wants more replay, but is it really necessary?

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A view of baseball’s instant replay display, circa 2008 in the umpires’ room at Wrigley Field in Chicago. Baseball is leaning toward expanding replay for 2012 to include trapped balls and fair-or-foul rulings.

Photo: Steve Green, Associated Press

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Major League Baseball's heavy hitters favor what might be an inevitable expansion of instant replay use starting in 2012, according to an Associated Press report.

It would include the ability to review whether a ball was trapped or caught, and whether batted balls were fair or foul (the latter known informally around these parts as the Mauer Mandate or the Cuzzi Clause). Balls and strikes, as well as out/safe calls at bases, would not be reviewable -- bad news for the next pitcher to lose a perfect game on a blown call on the final out, which will never happen again in the history of baseball.

For the record: This writer doesn't want more replay in baseball -- a position that perhaps makes one part of the minority. Based on the plays that would be reviewable, how do you determine where base runners should wind up if a ball that was originally ruled foul or caught is subsequently ruled fair or not caught? And what happens to runners already on the bases if a trapped ball is later ruled a catch?

We're not going to harp on the "baseball has a human element" argument because that one doesn't carry as much weight. Replay just doesn't work for as many situations in baseball nearly as well as it does in other sports.

Toward the end of the 2008 season, baseball added limited replay -- the first of its kind in the sport -- only to determine whether a potential home run was fair or foul, and whether it cleared the playing field or not. In a fluid sport such as baseball, with moving parts on every play, reviews of a home run (a very self-contained play) make sense.

The NFL (old replay system started in 1986, new one in 1999) is full of such self-contained moments. So is the NBA, which started replay during the 2002-03 season. In-out calls in tennis, which have been reviewable for several years thanks to technology, constitute another great use of replay.

But let's not mess with baseball. It's hardly perfect; part of its makeup, however, is that it can't be perfected.

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