Culbreath: Baseball’s new normalWritten by Matt 'Shaggy' Culbreath | | firstname.lastname@example.org
We’re now officially more than a month into 21st-Century Baseball. You know, the one where they use newfangled technology like “cameras” in order to make sure calls on the field match the play on the field. We’ve seen reviews both big and small.
Just this week, the Pittsburgh Pirates beat San Francisco on a walk-off review: Starling Marte hit a triple off the right field wall and came home on a throwing error to score the walk-off winner. Giants catcher Buster Posey got the ball, but missed the tag. Marte was called out at the plate anyway, which would have sent the game to extra innings. But the challenge was made, New York saw the missed tag and the Pirates walked into the locker room happy men.
Ask the players and managers how they feel about replay, and they’ll immediately retreat to whether or not the latest call went their way. Hey, can’t blame them. They’re not exactly disinterested parties.
But what about you, dear baseball fan? Have you managed to come to terms with the latest encroachment of technology into America’s Pasttime?
I couldn’t be more thrilled. Yeah, it’s not perfect. Some of the rules are silly (umps can’t initiate a replay until the 7th because of reasons), and sometimes it’s used incorrectly (more than once, now, the umps have used replay because they lost track of balls and strikes). But you look at the calls that they do get right, and it’s overwhelmingly positive for the game. Not to mention, it’s quick: at this point in the year, the average review takes two minutes, and that’s trending downward. That’s about the same amount of time that it takes to bring in a relief pitcher. And if you’ve ever sat through an inning where a team has brought in three or four specialists, you know how much that can be a drag. Nothing like that happening in the replay booth.
The biggest thing they got right is the centralized replay office. Copying from the NHL’s playbook, all of MLB’s replays are done from a neutral site. They have the feeds, camera angles and tools at their disposal to make calls quickly and accurately. Compare that to the NFL method of replay officials at the game site. Granted: the NFL average review is just about on par with where MLB’s reviews have clocked in: at about two minutes a pop (leaving out automatic reviews, unless they’re significant enough that the refs call for them).
I’m all for more technology, though. I point to tennis as an example: they are literally able to computer track a ball’s trajectory on replay to make sure if it was in or out. I understand that a tennis court is a smaller playing space than a ball diamond, football field, basketball court or hockey rink. But if you can get spatially aware cameras in my living room by way of an Xbox Kinect, then the technology has to be out there to get true goal line and sideline detection. Don’t tell me the best we can do is paint lines on a field, or make a puck glow.
(Oh yeah, you forgot about FoxTrax, didn’t you? Did you know that both technologies were developed by the same company? I’d say the First and 10 line has been a little more successful.)
I know baseball games have a tendency to go a little longer than we’d like them to. We know that MLB is trying to speed the game up, and replay can only serve to stretch things further. But I’m willing to sacrifice an extra couple of minutes on the back end of a game if it means the game is going to be called correctly.
Congrats to baseball for finally coming along into the future.