Sunday, July 15, 2012
Instant replay? Maybe imperfection is OK
By Anna McDonald
It was the quote heard around the baseball world. In his annual question and answer session at the All-Star Game, commissioner Bud Selig spoke about when, if ever, instant replay will be expanded to include such plays as trapped balls in the outfield and balls hit near the foul lines. "The appetite for more instant replay in the sport is very low," Selig said. And then, "Nobody is anxious to increase replay."
Fans went crazy. Everyone was upset. Shouldn’t the commissioner know most fans want more replay?
The problem is his quote was taken out of context.
In saying "nobody," Selig was referring to his team of advisers -- not the fans. In fact, Selig in the past has stated he is aware many fans want more replay. Put into the correct context, Selig’s quote is referring to Joe Torre, Tony La Russa, Jim Leyland and Mike Scioscia as well as others. There are about 14 people whom Selig utilizes for on-the-field operations. These are the people telling him the appetite for more replay is very low.
Why does it matter? It matters immensely. After a blown call every fan is willing to jump on the baseball-is-stuck-in-the-dark-ages bandwagon but no one is taking the time to listen to the people who play the game, the managers, the front offices and the owners.
Asking baseball people their opinion is an important step to implementing -- or not -- more replay. Professional athletes and coaches often have a very different mind-set than the rest of us. Many players believe part of the game is making a split-second decision -- by the fielders, the batters, the umpires, the coaches -- and sometimes that decision is the correct one and sometimes it’s not. So, part of baseball then, to the people playing the game, is being able to bounce back from a bad throw to first, a horrible at-bat and yes, even a bad call by an umpire.
Joe Torre hinted at this mind-set when he said, "The game isn't perfect. For all of us that want everything to be right all the time, that's not going to be the case, no matter how much replay you're going to see. I don't know why we want everything to be perfect. Life isn't perfect. I think this is a game of life, myself."
Even though this is not a popular opinion, Torre is right. Our culture today wants everything to be right all the time but sometimes perfection is found in overcoming mistakes. Think back to backyard baseball games as a kid. There are lessons to be learned in arguing over if your friend stepped on the Frisbee used as the first-base bag or not. Lessons of arrogance and humbleness, of moving on or going home in the face of frustration.
Somehow professional baseball has to find a way to fit the culture for today without losing its greatest strength: the past. Baseball’s beauty, more than any other sport, is its connection with the past and the lesson of life it has taught us.
When Selig's team of advisers decides it is ready for more replay, guaranteed, these great baseball minds will have found a way to preserve the past, incorporate today and protect the future of the sport. Until then, fans must settle for the baseball way: imperfection.
Anna McDonald is a contributor to the SweetSpot blog. You can follow her on Twitter here.