Baseball is a game built on traditions and an unwritten code of conduct.
So when Major League Baseball went full-bore with instant video replay for disputed calls some feared some of baseball’s past — its charm — would be lost. Well, instant replay has brought about changes but almost all for the better. Toping the list is a, well, kinder and gentler approach to the game — at least by the team managers and umpires.
Managers are less likely to get heated about perceived bad calls because calling for a video review is now an option. The number of mangers kicking dirt and spewing four-letter words has declined. And umpires are far less emphatic about their calls knowing that the camera will likely clear up the dispute.
This new civility will, in the long run, be good for baseball.
And it will also spur some new traditions.
Detroit Tiger Manager Brad Ausmus said new strategies are needed in disputing a call.
“Normally the manager would go out there to scream and yell but it doesn’t make sense to go out there and scream and yell if they know you have a challenge,” Ausmus said. “In essence, I’m really just taking my time getting out there so we can get a determination from our video room as to whether we should use the challenge. It’s a little awkward because I really don’t have much to say.”
Although the season is young, the video challenge system has gone smoothly. As of last week there were 64 replays with 21 of those overturned. Nineteen of the overturned calls came from the 48 manager challenges, and two were a result of the 16 umpire-initiated reviews.
The system isn’t perfect, however. Not even close.
Monday night a routine force out at home plate in the Mariners game with Texas was overturned after it was determined on video the Rangers’ catcher dropped the ball. Texas manager Ron Washington went into a rage, getting him tossed from the game, because he thought the ball was dropped when the catcher attempted to transfer the ball to throw to first base for the double play.
A week earlier a similar play also went the Mariners’ way in a game against the Angeles when a Josh Hamilton catch was overturned on review.
In the past, those plays were sure outs. Now, with slow-mo analysis of every movement every detail is scrutinized.
Mistakes are going to happen. And maybe that’s for the best. It’s going to take time for everyone to adjust to all this change.
Sure, getting it right is important but baseball wouldn’t be baseball without an occasional rhubarb.