The big story of the day is the AP report that MLB is leaning toward expanding instant replay in 2012. This is no surprise, since commissioner Bud Selig has been open to considering such a move.
I think it's inevitable that baseball expands instant replay beyond home runs. Fans have grown accustomed to it in other sports and expect calls to be made correctly. In 2011, it's increasingly difficult to tell a fan watching on TV that a ball that landed two inches foul was called fair. Now, I'm not going to argue -- like many have -- that the integrity of the game is at stake; that's absurd. I don't think baseball has ever lost one fan because of a bad call by an umpire (I'm sure even St. Louis Cardinals fans stuck with the sport after the 1985 World Series). But no sport likes to see itself eviscerated in the media and blogosphere by a game-changing call.
Should expanded replay include just fair/foul calls and trapped balls, as the report indicated, or should it include safe/out calls at bases, like the infamous Jim Joyce call that ruined Armando Galarraga's perfect game?
I don't think you can go checking every call on the bases. We already know umpires get the bang-bang call at first base correct nearly every time, and if you start checking every tag play on a stolen-base attempt at second base, you're adding more instant replays during a game than if you're just checking the occasional fair-foul call.
There are two major problems with all this, however:
1. What if an umpire calls a ball foul ... and it turns out it was fair? Do you redo the pitch? The batter is unlikely to repeat the same result (of course, he may do better). Or say it's a ball hit into the left-field corner, do you give the batter an automatic double if the ump missed the call? What if there was a runner on first base? Where does he go? Will umpires be more likely to call everything fair, since if it's ruled a foul ball you can just give the batter a strike and reverse the on-field action?
2. What about the time of games? They're already longer than everybody would like. Cardinals pitcher Ryan Franklin suggests cutting the time between every half-inning by 10 seconds; that would save about three minutes per game, but does that equal even one instant replay? This is another issue entirely, but there are many ways to shorten games: limit the number of warm-up pitches for a reliever, don't allow managers and coaches to visit the mound except to remove a pitcher, enforce the rule that pitchers have 12 seconds to deliver the ball once a batter steps in the box, and so on.
Selig has a 14-man panel that, according to the AP report, consists of managers, general managers and team executives. It didn't mention any players, which I find interesting. Because here's what I'd do: Let the players vote.