The Press Democrat, Santa Rosa, Calif., Lowell Cohn column
Jul 16, 2012 (The Press Democrat - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
From time to time, well-meaning but misguided people say the dreaded two words in relation to baseball. I'm reluctant to write the dreaded two words for fear of letting them loose on the world or causing a curse to be visited on me and my loved ones.
There, I wrote them -- and let the gods of baseball be kind to all of us.
The dreaded words were uttered during the All-Star break when reporters asked commissioner Bud Selig if he will expand instant replay. Selig, to his everlasting credit, said, "With instant replay, I think we're good as is."
Bless you, Uncle Bud. Whatever you do, hold that line.
Instant replay has just about murdered pro football -- all those endless waits while some guy ducks his head under a hood to study ball and foot position, or something like that. Do you really find that exciting?
Good old Bud can't allow this in baseball. No hoods. No red flags. No challenges. No nothing.
This is what baseball currently has in the instant replay department: Replay can determine if a home run went over the fence, and if it sailed into the stands fair or foul. That's it. At some future date, baseball might allow replay to determine if balls that land down the lines are fair or foul, or if fly balls get trapped.
Frankly, what baseball already has is too much for me. Let the creeping crud of replay stop right there.
This is what sane people never can allow in baseball: Instant replay reviewing any play at any base, instant replay determining if a fielder trapped a fly ball -- that would be as bad as football.
"Was his knee down?"
"Did he have possession of the ball?"
Good grief, imagine instant replay interfering with the home-plate ump calling balls and strikes.
Baseball is a game of pace and rhythm and no one should interfere with the slow beauty of baseball through interruption or by making it even slower. No manager should be allowed to argue a call by demanding a replay -- the grotesque red-flag thing in football. No manager should be allowed to mess with the opposing pitcher by demanding a replay to upset the pitcher's timing. That kind of gamesmanship cannot invade or pollute baseball.
Advocates of replay believe in "absolute truth." I've got news for you, there is no such thing as absolute truth, not in life and not in baseball.
Bruce Bochy might challenge that Josh Reddick trapped a low liner by Melky Cabrera after it was ruled a legit catch. But the replay itself might be vague and then people would argue over the replay. "The camera really didn't have a good angle," Mike Krukow might say.
Bud, be wise. Please don't lead us into those troubled waters.
Recently, Eric Byrnes was talking about instant replay. I don't know Byrnes, but I listen to him on radio and he seems like a nice guy. I am going to disagree with him in the interest of open debate, but this is not personal.
He would prefer robots to call balls and strikes. He said that. He doesn't like human umpires because they get things wrong and each ump has a different strike zone and some umps gave Greg Maddux a wider-than-fair strike zone because he was Greg Maddux.
It sounds like Byrnes was blaming the umpires for his difficulty in hitting Maddux. Eric, everyone had a hard time hitting Maddux.
I'm struck by Byrnes' disdain for human perception. I'm sure most hitters feel the way he does.
Now, I'm going to get philosophical. Baseball never should use robots. Baseball never should take the game away from the four umpires on the field. Baseball never should employ a fifth umpire to overrule the men on the field.
One beauty of baseball -- there are many -- is the absolute authority of the umpires on the field in the middle of the glorious tumult of ball. They mostly get things right and sometimes they're wrong. And that's how life is. Because of the umpires doing the best they can, calling things on the spot, baseball is the most life-like of any sport, along with boxing and the referee. That means baseball is the most real and, in a sense, the most meaningful of games.
The umpires are the antidote to the modern ballplayer -- entitled, petulant, rich beyond our wildest imaginings. Sure, players want robots calling balls and strikes. Flesh-and-blood umpires frustrate them and get in their way and call them out on the unhittable low outside changeup that just grazes the black of the plate.
Well, someone needs to get in the way of ballplayers. Someone needs to have absolute authority over them. An umpire needs to say, "This is my ruling. Abide by it or I'll throw you out."
The umpire is a regular person like you or me. He is the last voice of the common man in modern sport. Let the voice be loud. Let the players answer to it every inning of every game. And let them remember one more thing. When they answer to that voice, they are answering to us.
For more on the world of sports in general and the Bay Area in particular, go to the Cohn Zohn at cohn.blogs.pressdemocrat.com. You can reach Staff Columnist Lowell Cohn at email@example.com.
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