Fair or Foul: The MLB Instant Replay

Yesterday was a landmark day in professional baseball history.  For the first time ever, Major League Baseball implemented limited instant replay technology at three baseball games on Thursday.  Instead of your typical hooded camera or call-box replay technology used for football and other sports, umpires had access to a flat screen television and a telephone mounted in the umpire room just behind the Chicago Cubs dugout at Wrigley Field.

The instant replay was never used Thursday, though batters went yard all night long.

The MLB has promised the new replay technology will only be implemented to review disputed home runs.  This comes as  a response to three suffered miss-calls in May, which cost players their earned runs.  Mets’ Carlos Delgado, Cubs’ Geovany Soto and Yankees’ Alex Rodriguez all had home runs taken away by misjudged calls made far from the fence.  In light of ever-expanding ballparks and the resulting spatial limitations of umpires, the replay sounded like a good idea to Bud Selig, MLB commissioner.  Selig announced that the replay is in the best interest of the game.  Selig has debated the use of the technology, questioning whether it would be a detriment to the image of America’s favorite pastime.  As a lifetime baseball fan, I am a little apprehensive about the instant replay, though I admit it could be useful.  Here are some thoughts to consider:

Of the three examples of erroneous calls in May, not one of the three player’s teams faced defeat due to the miss-calls.  The Cubs, Yanks and Mets easily slid past their respective opponents that night by five or more points.  The bad calls simply evened the score a bit, if nothing else.

Also, how often are home runs contested?  Just because there were three bad calls made within a short period from each other, that doesn’t mean these abnormal homers happen everyday.  I can think of much more to be contested in baseball that could potentially make or break a game other than a home run:  missed tags at first base on a pick-off, missed tags at home plate, a line drive on the line, an early jump on a stolen base, a missed bag on a double play, a close play for the force out at first base, a ball that should have been a strike – the list goes on.

I am only slightly skeptical about the new technology because I am afraid that in the near future, baseball will lose its flavor due to the implementation of micro-management mechanisms.  First it’s home runs, then its everything else.  I like the idea of the limited replay for contested home runs, since they are so rare.  However, I’m just not certain if professional baseball teams will feel completely competitive without safety nets in place – and that makes me a little nervous.

How do you feel?