Under Review: MLB’s Ban on Instant Replay

May 23rd, 2008

Question: What’s a 53-year old technology that Major League Baseball doesn’t use?

Answer: Instant replay.

Sadly, that’s not a joke. Instant replay is rampant in professional sports. The NFL, NBA and NHL have it. It’s at cricket, rugby and tennis matches. Even NASCAR uses it, though sparingly. It’s almost impossible to believe that after 50-plus years, instant replay still hasn’t found its way into America’s favorite pastime, MLB.

And it isn’t for lack of need. In a bizarre string of events over six days and in three different ballparks, umpires (incorrectly) ruled four times that a home run was not a home run. The would-be-homers are getting a lot of press. See here, here, here and, for hundreds of more hits, here.

Alex Rodriguez, Geovany Soto, Ben Francisco and Carlos Delgado were the four batters who hit the phantom home-runs. It would have been Carlos Delgado’s sixth home run of the year, and given his abysmal start to the season, he really needed it. Everyone who saw the replay knew it was a home run.

“I —-ed it up. I’m the one who thought it was a —- foul ball. I saw it on the replay. I’m the one who —-ed it up so you can put that in your paper,” said home plate umpire for the Mets vs. Yankees game, Bob Davidson. “Bolts and nuts, I —-ed up. You’ve just got to move on. No one feels worse about it than I do.”

It’s only a matter of time before MLB releases its long-established hold on “the good ol’ days.” At this point, that’s all the holdout can be. It’s not about fear of slowing down the game. It’s not about lack of technology. And it isn’t about disagreement (this past off-season, general managers voted 25 to 5 in favor of using instant replay).

But, soon, MLB is going to find it has a PR nightmare on its hands. The league took (and continues to take) a hit from the steroid scandals. And to counter the negative attitude of fans, the league should get out in front of this issue and institute instant replay immediately. Baseball has long been admired as a sport showcasing American values. Fairness and honesty—both exemplified by reviewing a play and making the accurate call—are values we can all stand behind.

GMs, coaches, players and fans want instant replay. What are you waiting for, Bud?

Posted Under: Innovation & Technology, Public Relations
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