Opinion: Major League Baseball replay system shouldn’t be dumped just yet

John Farrell Red Sox
Red Sox manager John Farrell barks at umpires in New York last weekend after coming up on the wrong end of the stick when it comes to MLB’s new replay system. Credit: Getty Images

User errors aside, Major League Baseball’s problem isn’t its new replay system on its own. “Replay issues” are simply what’s on minds of those in our “OH LOOK! A NEW INTERNET MEME!” culture right now. This minute.


Because Jerry Remy’s son didn’t beat anyone up in prison this week, Papi’s selfie with POTUS is yesterday’s controversy, and Jenny Dell has stayed off of Instagram for a hot minute. It’s because the Red Sox are in the basement of the AL East, but it’s too early to panic; because the Bruins don’t start their playoff push until Game 1 at the Garden Friday night and finally, because the biggest moment of the Celtics season happens on May 20 — well after the games stop, during the NBA Draft Lottery.

To be fair, the Red Sox were victims of the dreaded learning curve against the Yankees last weekend. Two blown calls by umpires using the newly instated replay system resulted in two tough losses to a division foe that could prove costly come September. The spectacle around these blunders was almost surreal – culminating, of course, with John Farrell’s ejection from Sunday night’s nationally televised game after arguing about the shoddy review process that lacked conclusive evidence.

Even worse, this was on the heels MLB’s flimsy explanation of Saturday afternoon’s blown call. The umpires “did not have immediate access to the conclusive angle” in that one. Huh?

You may be thinking to yourself, “It’s 2014. We’re like four years away from telepathic technology – how do the umpires NOT have access to the same angles we’re seeing on television?” And you’re not far off. Remember, this is the same league with official team Facebook pages which are hacked on an alarming basis. Technology and baseball are sworn enemies.

Whether there’s merit to this learning curve existing in the first place is a different argument for a different day. And nothing written in this missive so far illustrates any semblance of confidence that Bud Selig and company will clean things up, and figure this whole replay thing out in the immediate future. Still, while MLB may lack tact, it’s important to avoid combining administrative ineptitude with a concept.

The precept of replay isn’t to fine tune the game by completely removing an umpire’s subjectivity from the equation; it’s to serve as a safeguard which corrects an instantaneous judgment when it’s egregiously wrong. Is the process perfect? Absolutely not, but replay helps sustain the integrity of the game, and if last weekend was a small tariff toward refinement, then so be it.

Catering to the whims of angry fans and the enabling sports media is a dangerous venture. The Red Sox were victims of an unstable process, not a capability. Eliminating the use of replay entirely is irresponsible.

Follow Ryan Hadfield on Twitter @Hadfield__


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