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Over-examining plays through replay isn't good for baseball

Editor's note: In the days leading up to Rob Manfred's one-year anniversary as commissioner on Jan. 25, we asked our writers what one change or innovation they would make to improve baseball if the sport started over today.

Replay is a very good thing in baseball. Technology has advanced so much since the game's rules were first written that it doesn't make sense not to use it to correct bad calls (and don't get me started on Phil Cuzzi's pre-replay blown call on Joe Mauer's double/foul ball in the 2009 division series -- grrrrr!!!). But the replay process can also go a little too far. Case in point -- calling baserunners out for being ever so slightly off the bag.

This became most noticeable during last year's postseason, when several runners were called out after replays showed they had gone off the bag ever so slightly after the tag. The problem is just how little separation between the base and the runner there sometimes is. In some cases, it can be a foot or more. In others, though, it could be barely an inch and for less than a second. And the only way that separation can be shown is by repeatedly slowing the play down to virtual stop action.

Really? We need to examine such plays so closely that it's as if we were the FBI or conspiracy theorists reviewing the Zapruder film?

I am not saying that players do not need to remain on the base. I'm just saying that if an umpire standing right next to the base and with his eyes right on the play doesn't see the player leave the bag, then it simply isn't worth calling him out.

Players are running full tilt and siding hard. If their momentum carries them ever so slightly off the base for ever so slightly a moment, it just isn't worth getting concerned. It's like the neighborhood play. No one has a problem with fielders not having their foot on the bag while attempting a double play. That's the way the game has always been played. So why should we care whether a baserunner might have been off the bag for a fraction of a second? The answer is, no one does care. Except for teams that might be able to get an easy out by demanding a replay.

Furthermore, because the separation can be so minimal and so brief in some instances, it's also possible that the runner actually might have been shoved off the base by the fielder tagging him and pushing with his glove. If so, it definitely isn't right that the runner be called out.

This is very similar to the issue over replays being used to show that a fielder didn't have possession of a ball long enough for a transfer. After a quick uproar about how ridiculous, extreme, unfair and out of tradition the use of replays for these plays was in 2014, baseball quickly decided it would stop doing so. The league needs to do the same for baserunners over-sliding the bag.

If a baserunner over-slides enough that an umpire notices, then he should be called out. If he over-slides so little that only NSA-level surveillance cameras can detect it, then just let the play stand and get on with the game.