Instant umpire: Baseball makes a good call on reviewing plays

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With apologies to the author of “Casey at the Bat”: Somewhere in this favored land the sun is shining bright, but there is no joy in Puristville — the mighty human element has struck out.

Well, not really. It’s just that Major League Baseball has decided to more fully embrace instant replay and not everybody may like it. 

We say hurrah.

All 30 Major League Baseball clubs have made the call, with backing from the Major League Baseball Players Association and the World Umpires Association. This decision, which has been under discussion for about a year, was finalized at the latest owners meeting last week. The new rules will be in effect for the 2014 season.

Instant replay has been used in the majors since 2008 for questionable home runs, but now it will be expanded to other types of situations such as tag plays, including steals and pick-offs. That may curtail the traditional scene of a manager doing an angry bull impersonation before an umpire impervious to threat — but that pantomime won’t be much missed.

Of course, fans don’t have to be purists to fear that games which can drag on past three hours will last even longer. But Major League Baseball tested the replay policies last year in the Arizona Fall League and managers will be limited to one challenge per game and will gain another only if their appeal succeeds.

The technology exists, so why not use it? 

While umpires generally do an excellent job, it’s better that the risk of blown calls is minimized. Besides, the human element is not completely stricken from the game. Balls and strikes are not subject to review and the Mighty Casey can still strike out.


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