I like what baseball is doing on comprehensive video replay.
I don’t like how they got there.
Baseball seems to make desperately needed changes only when the sport is shamed and embarrassed. Go back just a few years for the PEDs example. Time trip to the 1970s for the junking of the reserve clause, then even further back for integration.
The game simply never is on the cutting edge of change. Baseball possesses history that no other sport can match. But its various constituencies, protecting their turf, hide behind the same tradition.
For once, you want change instituted without a crisis promoting the action.
Expanded replay to cover almost everything but balls and strikes wasn’t going anywhere as late as 2012. Then encroaching HD cameras kept proving umpires were human and needed technology’s help. When fans began talking about blown calls instead of postseason game action, baseball couldn’t forestall the logic of replay any longer.
Getting the call right by all means available will be a nice tradeoff for such old-time histrionics as Chesterton resident Lloyd McClendon, now Mariners manager, heisting first base and carrying into the dugout in his Pirates managerial days.
“It’s’ going to be different, but it’s going to be better. Bottom line is to get things right,” said Twins manager Ron Gardenhire, one of the leaders in seniority in his position.
“Ultimately, in talking with all the umpires, they don’t want to be on SportsCenter. They don’t want to be on Fox. They don’t want to be on any channel for missing a call. It’s all about getting it right. The system’s going to be pretty good.”
And if replay breeds better relations to what was an increasingly confrontational relationship between umpires and field personnel, so much the better. Umpires now have their own discretion to video-review any call after the seventh inning, after the managers have used up their challenge.
“There was a lot of great conversation (in spring training) between us and the umpires on trying to make sure what’s right and what’s wrong,” Gardenhire said. “I had (umpire supervisor) Bob Davidson tell me, ‘Man if I was you, pick it (replay challenge) out early. But after the seventh inning, go out on every call. They’re ready to look at it – they want it right.”
Sox manager Robin Ventura won’t think twice about daring to use his one guaranteed challenge early in games and not save his bullets for later.
“Every play becomes important at that time,” Ventura said. “If you’re waiting for something that never happens, you’re going to kick yourself later. It doesn’t happen enough that I think you have to wait.”
This time, the animated Gardenhire will protect his players as usual, only he’ll do it as his legal right, as early as needed.
“What if the first play of the game is a bang-bang one?” he said. “What about the player involved? If I don’t go out and challenge it, the first play of the game, am I doing justice to that player and the team? Strategy will come in, but also it’s just respecting the game and my players.”
Allowing blown calls due to lack of recourse, such as Don Denkinger’s in the 1985 World Series and Jim Joyce’s on Armando Galarraga’s near-perfect game in 2010, was not respecting the game.
Glad it’s better late than never once again in baseball. But one day, please, stay ahead of the curve.
This column solely represents the writer’s opinion. Reach him at DGemsNet@aol.com.