Baseball Defies Tradition with Late Season Rule Change

Instant replay is long overdue in baseball. The traditionalist customs of Americas pastime held the sport back from making the game better through technology long enough. All major sports take advantage of replay, even tennis. But if baseball waited this long, over twenty years after the NFL first attempted using instant replay, why rush to install it in late August, the most critical time of the season.

Baseball is the same sport that won’t allow teams to turn the lights on in the middle of inning because it could sway the equitable balance in the game. Why make a drastic rule change not in mid-season, but late in the season, without even testing it?

This rule change is an overreaction to a few highly publicized missed home run calls earlier this season and to constant media pressure. If the owners waited until after the season, tested it in the Arizona Fall League, used it next spring, then started the 2009 season with instant replay, media and fan perception would be no different. Instead baseball is rushing its implementation, leaving it open to intense scrutiny if any mistakes are made. Replay implementations typically have a few kinks to work out before perfecting. September and October are not the best times to work out the kinks in major league baseball.

One could argue baseball tipped slightly tipped the balance of power this season. What will they say to those teams who lost games because of bad calls earlier in the same season where teams will benefit from calls being overturned? Better yet, what happens if the umps have a problem reviewing a call, causing a fifteen minute delay, disrupting the delicate timing of a pitcher, causing a momentum shift. It could happen.

Baseball needs instant replay, they should have had it five years ago. But deciding to make a rule change mid season that could, not definitely but possibly, have an impact on a pennant race or playoff series after playing 130 games of the season without it is wrong. It’s against the tradition baseball lives by. Chalk this up to public pressure.

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