For the last several years Major League Baseball leaders have been obsessed with trying to make games shorter.
So it's ironic that they're latest, greatest effort to improve the Grand Old Game, instant replay, does little more than inject numerous and lengthy boring periods into baseball contests.
Is it really worth it to have to sit through one of the managers wandering out onto the field every time there is a close play to stall the umpire while a video review team decides whether a call should be challenged? In the National Football League coaches must make a quick decision because if the other team snaps the ball, the chance for a replay request is gone. In baseball, delays of the game are tolerated while the footage is reviewed. The result: the game is delayed not only by reviews -- but also by the PROSPECT of reviews.
I haven't counted the number of times that St. Louis Cardinals manager Mike Matheny has popped out of the dugout for a casual chat with a member of the umpiring crew while looking back into his dugout for the thumbs up or down. But it sure seems like he actually follows through and challenges the call less than a quarter of the time.
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Even when a call is challenged, there's no guarantee. During a close play at second base in which a New York Yankees runner was deemed to be safe, the Cardinals challenged. A message on the scoreboard said there was no clear and definitive video evidence to overturn the call of out, so it was upheld. If the call is challenged a quarter of times the manager comes out of the dugout and delays the game and his plea to reverse the call is granted half the time, that means 87.5 percent of the time the game is delayed due to instant replay issues, it's a complete waste of time.
That doesn't sound like a successful program to me.
It's awful that the games are being stopped so often immediately following climactic plays. Just when things should be the most interesting, everything is called to a halt for an impromptu meeting.
Not only does the instant replay system ruin the flow of the play, it also takes the drama out of the time-honored tradition of manager's storming out of the dugout to argue about a bad call.
I'd take one instance of a skipper sprinting out of the dugout, turning his cap backwards and going nose-to-nose with an ump to five instances of him slowly ambling up to the official to ask how his day is going while the video's being gone over any day of the week.
Even if the call doesn't go your way, the real argument is dramatic and exciting. The crowd gets into it and boos or cheers, depending on the circumstances. Sometimes there is even the payoff of an ejection.
When an instant replay announcement is made, even if the call goes the way of the home team, it's basically an expected result after an annoying and unneeded pause. There's no great sense that something dramatic has happened. There's only consternation that the play should have been called correctly in the first place. When it goes against the home team, there's the sense that the game was interrupted for no good reason at all.
I'd rather see my team lose out on one bad call a week than watch the same boring routine over and over again. Every. Single. Game.
Please, Major League Baseball, realize that like with artificial turf, sometimes the latest technology is no substitute for letting things be natural.