The time has come to get it right with replay
We have the technology; there's no reason to continue accepting mistaken calls
This is yet another opportunity for all of us recovering baseball purists to enter the 21st century, happily or not.
Expanded replay. Wait for it. It is almost here. And even after it is here, you may still have to wait for it.
But let us look at the bright side, the shimmering, warm, beckoning side of this innovation. From sea to shining sea, you can practically here the chant:
"Get it right! Get it right! Get it right!"
The technology exists. The egregiously bad calls that unfairly influenced the outcomes of games could become, in theory at least, things of the past.
Baseball entered a new era Thursday when all 30 clubs supported the dramatically increased use of instant replay. It made sense. It made a lot of sense. In fact, it gave rise to the question: "What have we been waiting for, when the technology to rise above human error has been with us for some time?"
We had been waiting for the human inclination not to change anything, even when things aren't going all that well, to dissipate.
We had been waiting for some of us to stop saying things like, "We cherish every aspect of the human element in baseball, even when it means living with calls that are clearly incorrect."
I thought Oakland Athletics manager Bob Melvin had, as he often will have, one of the best comments in this area. On the issue of the human element in umpiring, Melvin said: "The human element is great, until it happens to you."
Those of us who have invoked tradition and humanity and all sorts of related sentimental bids in order to defend correctable mistakes as part of baseball's beauty have been overtaken not only by technology, but by the simple necessity to get it right.
Our previous positions on these issues can be summarized, as so much of life can be, by a Bob Dylan lyric:
But I was so much older then,
I'm younger than that now.
Games will be longer with the expanded replay system. Some people will say otherwise, but there are always going to be elements of the population swimming against the tide of obvious truth.
But there are at least a couple of changes that deserve particular standing ovations. They represent progress in basic logic, and even in the fundamental fan experience.
Instead of having the replay official as part of the on-site umpiring crew, the replay official will be in a Replay Command Center in New York, at the headquarters of Major League Baseball Advanced Media. A rotation of umpires will be assigned to this duty.
This is progress. There had been a thought that the crews could become five-man units, rotating the replay official's role. But this is the better way. The umpire in New York will not be part of the on-field crews, and thus will be removed from the immediate peer-group pressure to uphold original calls. That's another step up the evolutionary ladder.
And under the expanded replay, fans in the ballparks, the ones who paid for tickets, will be able to see the full available selection of replays on disputed plays.
"Our fans will love it," Commissioner Bud Selig predicted. "You know, the thought that, in the past, I could be sitting at home watching a game and get all the replays. And [somebody else] could be sitting at the ballpark and couldn't see any of these replays. That's just wrong."
Now, it's right. "Right" seems to be the operative word in this entire discussion. Getting it right has taken on a more serious meaning, since there is now a way to get from the questionable call to the correct call.
Those of us who have been on the other side of this issue have frequently been accused of taking an "old-school" position. It was old, all right, but it may not have had much to do with school.
Expanded replay will give the game of baseball a much better chance to get the calls right. It is a major step forward for the grand old game. What happens next will include some trial and error, but it will all occur under the great big umbrella of progress.