Will Instant Replay Call Reversals Help or Hurt?

It's even harder to tell from still shots, but it makes you wonder how close the second baseman here was to the base when he tagged it for the force on the runner now sliding in.

It’s even harder to tell from still shots, but it makes you wonder how close the second baseman here was to the base when he tagged it for the force on the runner now sliding in.

Thank you, Mark Wernick for the SABR e-mail you sent about an hour ago. It frames the essence of this column:

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From Mark Wernick, SABR Member …

Brad Miller hit an RBI triple in the third for Seattle’s first run.  He later tried to score on a fly by Seth Smith to right fielder George Springer,  and was originally ruled safe. The Astros challenged, and the replay showed he was tagged out before touching the plate.
“We’re going to check on it, but we were told that when a foot is hovering over the plate, it’s the same as touching it,” Seattle manager Lloyd McClendon said. “We’ll see what they say about this rule, but it is what it is.”
When a foot is hovering over the plate, it’s the same as touching it
I’m sure that frequently was the call back in the day before instant replay challenges,  much like the phantom tag used to be an out most of the time.  However,  I can’t recall ever reading specific language in the rule book saying such could be the case.  Please enlighten me if that language was/is there.
Things are going to be a lot different in the era of overturned rulings based on instant replay.  For example,  look for the number of ejections to go way down,  as well as the number of long angry tirades disputing calls.  Will this development add to,  or subtract from,  our appreciation of the game?
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Like Mark Wernick, I cannot recall any “casting foot shadow” rule language that qualifies “close” being good enough for an out call, although we all know the rule-bypass-winks we had to freeze on everyone’s faces to put up with all those phantom tags at second on the double play forever prior to instant replay.

I can only think that instant replay will continue to improve and correct many calls from human error. This will be easier to accept over time as umpires, managers and players alike become more accustomed to the regularity of call reversals by a technology that should be superior to the unrecordable one-perspective decision of a highly trained human being who still cannot overcome the limitations of human frailty under close play circumstances.

Once it stops being a man versus machine challenge to the egos of umpires, it stands to reason that the technology becomes the ally of the umpire under all those previously heated encounters that were a matter of ego – and totally irreversible.

Now even the umpire can come to say, “Well, if you disagree, let’s let the replay people check it out and see what they think.”

Expanded use of instant replay gets my vote as a great aid to the game. As technology and our ability to use it well increases, it can only help the game improve. It doesn’t take much time for a serious review and I do not mind time spent on making the game better, anyway.

If we want to save time, go back to the things are now being tried. Cut down on the wastes that don’t matter – like batters stepping away from the plate to scratch themselves or pick their ears and noses..

Fewer fights. Fewer protests. More accurate calls. And, hopefully, no more going home from a game that your team just lost on a phantom foot contact of second base on a game-ending double play. And those are just some of the bigger rewards from the use of instant replay on the horizon, as I see them.

What do you think?

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2 Responses to “Will Instant Replay Call Reversals Help or Hurt?”

  1. Bobby Copus Says:

    I am in favor of it. I prefer games not be decided by missed calls by umpires.

  2. Tom Hunter Says:

    I agree that the foot or hand must actually touch home plate; however, the phantom double play served the purpose of protecting shortstops and second basemen from serious injury.

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