Replay in Baseball? Count Me Out


OK, enough. We’ve officially jumped the shark on instant replay.

Last night, history was made in Major League Baseball with the first-ever “walk off win via replay.”

It happened in Pittsburgh in a game between the Giants and Pirates. Tied at 1-1 with two outs in the ninth and no one on base, Starling Marte hit a triple off the right field wall. When the throw from the cutoff man went wild at third base, Marte sprinted for home and there was a close play at the plate. He was called out. Extra innings. But Pittsburgh challenged the call and on a very, very close call, the play was reversed.

Boom. Pirates win. Just like that. Sort of.

“You’re in a position where we have a challenge. Regardless, I have to make a call and even if it looks like he was out, I may have to roll the dice right there,” said Pirates manager Clint Hurdle. “It just looked to me like he was out when I first saw the play, but I wasn’t sure. But then we went ahead and challenged. It worked out for us.”

See, MLB, what you did? You armed each manager with a challenge to use at any time. Like NFL timeouts, you don’t get to keep them once the game is over. So, why not use em? And slow down the game in the process. An already slow game.

Sigh. I hate the addition of replay into baseball. They became the fourth member to the replay party, as the other big three had instituted different levels of it into their sports.

Hockey has had replay for years, and it seems to me that it is the only sport that really gets it right. It’s used at the right time and is really needed on scoring plays that are bang-bang with a puck traveling at over 100 miles-per-hour.

Football introduced it a while back and has gone through countless tweaks and adjustments. I still don’t think they have it right.

First of all, if an NFL head coach challenges a play and it is reversed, he does not get his challenge flag back unless he challenges again in the same game and that too, is reversed. That’s stupid. If he gets the first challenge correct, give the man his full allotment of challenges back. It’s not his fault you blew the call in the first quarter.

But the biggest problem I have with NFL replay is the constant cop-out of simply sticking with what was called on the field on close plays. I’m sitting on my couch and often I can see just one look at a replay and know what the call should be. And half of the time they screw it up, going back to the call on the field. I would like replay a lot more in the NFL if they simply had a guy locked away in a room somewhere listening to Barry Manilow on a headset, gave him a buzz when a play was challenged and let him simply make the call by what he sees, straight up, with the original call having nothing to do with the final verdict. They’d get the call right more often, in my opinion.

And if there’s any sport that really doesn’t need replay, it’s baseball. The saying, “it’s part of the game” couldn’t be more fitting. There are four umpires and they do a fantastic job of getting into position on close plays with a complete understanding of what to call.

What would Earl Weaver or Lou Piniella do if they had replay at their disposal when they managed? All-out emotional assaults on umpires? No way; we have to challenge the play first. And by the time the call came in, well, the emotion has died down from the heat of the battle on an instantaneous call. Maybe Lou would kick dirt all over the replay monitor.

A game that is slow to begin with does not need more to bog it down. Every time I see a group of umpires headed over to get on the headset, I let out a groan because of the needless stop-down. Let the umpires make the calls. It’s part of the game.

Suit up, Fonzie. We need you on the water skis. And don’t forget your leather jacket.

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Rob Scichili (shick-lee) has worked in professional sports for over 24 years in PR and communications, including time with the Dallas Stars, Anaheim Ducks,, Minnesota Timberwolves and Dallas Mavericks. A journalism graduate of Texas A&M, he is co-owner and editor at ScoreboardTx, principal at Shick Communications and VP at Franchise Sports & Entertainment while serving on the board of the Mike Modano Foundation.