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This House Believes Instant Replay Should Be Used in Major League Baseball
This House Believes Instant Replay Should Be Used in Major League Baseball
Major League Baseball (MLB), often referred to as “America’s pastime,” is unlike some other sports because it largely disallowing the use of instant replay to determine whether an umpire’s call was correct. Unlike American football—which allows videos of any play to be reviewed and, potentially, for officials’ calls to be reversed—baseball uses instant replay only for “boundary calls” involving potential home runs (in questions of whether a struck ball was a home run or a foul, or in situations where it’s unclear whether a fan interfered with a potential home run). Though the decision to adopt this limited degree of instant replay was a watershed in baseball history, many are calling for the sport to embrace instant replay more thoroughly by permitting it in a wider variety of situations. It has been reported that MLB officials are considering this expansion for the coming season.
Though the push for instant replay has existed for years and seems to grow stronger whenever there is a high-profile mistake by an umpire, it reached unprecedented intensity after a notorious blown call in June 2010. Detroit Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga was one out away from a perfect game—among the rarest and most revered accomplishments in baseball—against the Cleveland Indians when the umpire incorrectly ruled a runner safe at first base. Video footage showed beyond any doubt that the umpire blew the call and that Galarraga had been wrongly deprived of a place in baseball history.
Instant replay advocates differ in how they believe the sport should adopt the practice—for example, whether it should be limited to certain types of plays, or whether there should be a time limit. Though these are important questions, many arguments in this debate do not hinge on the specific mechanics of the instant replay used.
 Ben Walker, “MLB Leaning Toward Expanding Instant Replay For 2012,” Associated Press, April 14, 2011, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/04/14/mlb-expanding-instant-replay-2012_n_849274.html.
|Points For||Points Against|
|Accurate calls should be the top priority, and instant replay helps provide them||Instant replay will take too long|
|It’s not possible to get every call right, so instant replay is a necessary supplement to umpires’ skill||Instant replay will take the human element out of baseball|
|Instant replay will actually enhance umpires’ stature||Tradition demands that this instant replay not be used|
|Instant replay will place the focus of the game where it belongs—on the players, not the umpires||Many plays don’t lend themselves to video review|
|With more accurate calls come more legitimate outcomes to games||Instant replay might be deceptive or inconclusive|
Remember to choose a winning argument!
Accurate calls should be the top priority, and instant replay helps provide them
The main goal of an umpire is to make accurate calls. Umpires are meant to ensure that a player who is out is called out, for example, and that a foul ball is ruled a foul ball. When an umpire makes an incorrect call, he is falling short of fulfilling his primary responsibility. As the official rules of Major League Baseball instruct umpires, “The first requisite is to get decisions correctly.... Umpire dignity is important but never as important as ‘being right’” (Official Baseball Rules, Rule 9.05).
Without a doubt, instant replay helps to improve the accuracy of calls. When a play can be reviewed after the fact, in slow-motion, from multiple angles, it’s almost inevitable that the result will be a more accurate judgment. Instant replay serves as an additional tool for umpires, allowing closer examination of events. By providing umpires with an extra set of eyes, video cameras will better enable umps to fulfil their purpose.
 Major League Baseball, Official Baseball Rules, http://mlb.mlb.com/mlb/downloads/y2010/official_rules/2010_OfficialBaseballRules.pdf.
Umpires have to balance several important considerations: ensuring impartiality (and the appearance of impartiality as well); avoiding unnecessary delays in the game; ensuring that all rules are followed; and to behave in a manner that compels respect from all parties. To argue that the umpire’s job comes down to accurate calls is to oversimplify a very complicated role. As the official rules of Major League Baseball instruct umpires: “When you enter a ball park your sole duty is to umpire a ball game as the representative of baseball.... Keep the game moving. A ball game is often helped by energetic and earnest work of the umpires” (Official Baseball Rules, Rule 9.05).
It’s not possible to get every call right, so instant replay is a necessary supplement to umpires’ skill
Umpires must make split-second judgments, often from bad angles and with many elements to watch simultaneously. Mistakes will happen. Even the official rules acknowledge this when it tells umpires, “You no doubt are going to make mistakes” (Official Baseball Rules, Rule 9.05). Some calls will have to be made from a significant distance away from where the umpire is located—a commonly cited justification of MLB’s adoption of instant replay on boundary calls. Fans hold umpires to an exceptionally high standard; as former umpire Nestor Chylak put it, “They expect an umpire to be perfect on Opening Day and to improve as the season goes on.” But it is impossible for a human to attain perfection on his own, so we should provide him with the tools that will enable him to meet the exacting standards set out for him.
It is folly to withhold technology that is already available. Even MLB Commissioner Bud Selig, generally an opponent of instant replay, acknowledged “that the extraordinary technology that we now have merits the use of instant replay on a very limited basis” when he announced its adoption on boundary calls. Just as we would never countenance a rule prohibiting umpires from wearing eyeglasses to see calls better, we should also not tolerate a rule that essentially keeps umpires blind to a reality that everyone else—reporters, coaches, and fans—has access to. Well-respected Sports Illustrate columnist Joe Posnanski captured this point well: “Baseball ... should institute replay because it’s just not sustainable in today’s technological world to make bad calls on the field. Those days are over.... You can’t keep giving the fans at home better access to the truth than the home plate umpire.” Instant replay is a necessary tool to help umpires “see” better.
 Ed Price, “Baseball Brunch: Upon Further Review…,” AOL News, May 31, 2009, http://www.aolnews.com/2009/05/31/baseball-brunch-upon-further-review/.
 “Umpire Quotes,” Baseball Almanac, http://www.baseball-almanac.com/quotes/umpire_quotes.shtml.
 Jack Curry, “Baseball to Use Replay Reviews on Homers,” New York Times, Aug. 26, 2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/27/sports/baseball/27replay.html.
 Joe Posnanski, “Meals and Squeals,” SI.com, July 27, 2011, http://joeposnanski.si.com/2011/07/27/meals-and-squeals/.
Everybody knows umpires make mistakes; it happens often enough that fans and players all recognize it is part of the game. Nobody expects umpires to be perfect, but everyone wants umpires to strive for perfection. It’s just like with players: everybody wants their favourite players to strive to play perfectly, but nobody actually expects them to be perfect. Thus, we can’t sacrifice other elements of the game (discussed elsewhere in this debate) on the altar of perfection.
It is disingenuous to liken instant replay to eyeglasses or to mere tools to “supplement” umpires’ skill. Instant replay becomes a substitute for—not a supplement to—umpires’ skill. There is no skill involved in watching a slow-motion replay and determining whether a player was tagged; millions of fans do that each night from the comfort of their living rooms. We do not want the fundamental character of baseball to be changed by removing umpires from the equation, which is what happens every time instant replay is used.Improve this
Instant replay will actually enhance umpires’ stature
Instant replay will lead fans, managers, and players to hold umpires in higher regard. This will occur in two ways.
First, the vast majority of umpires’ calls are accurate. Statistical analyses have shown that well over 99 percent of calls are accurate, but this is not always appreciated by spectators. Instant replay will often confirm umpires’ calls, which will call to the public’s attention just how often umpires get it right.
Second, in cases where umpires’ incorrect judgments could have very bad consequences—for example, in the case of Armando Galarraga’s ruined perfect game, or in deciding the outcome of a crucial game—instant replay will allow a reversal. This will spare the umpire much guilt and shame. Umpire Tim McClelland, who was involved in questionable calls during the 2009 playoffs, said as much about his experience and those of Jim Joyce, the umpire who blew Galarraga’s perfect game: “After watching what I went through in the playoffs last year and then what Jim's going through, I think more and more umpires are coming around to [increased use of replay].”
Former umpire Don Denkinger expressed a similar sentiment. He blew a call in Game 6 of the 1985 World Series, and probably changed the outcome of the entire season. “I had 30 great years ... and I had one call that’s all anybody ever wants to talk about. It’s not right,” he said, adding that he now supports instant replay.
 Gil Imber, “Stats Prove MLB Umpires Call 99.5 Percent of Plays Correctly,” Bleacher Report, Oct. 26, 2011, http://bleacherreport.com/articles/911552-defining-the-human-element-mlb-umpires-call-995-of-plays-correctly.
 Paul White, “Expanding instant replay not an easy call to make for MLB,” USA Today, June 12, 2010, http://www.usatoday.com/sports/baseball/2010-06-10-instant-replay_N.htm.
 ESPN.com News Services, “Denkinger supports replay in baseball,” ESPN.com, June 3, 2010, http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/news/story?id=5245891.
Both the arguments provided by the proposition are faulty.
First, the vast majority of umpires’ calls might be correct, but that’s because the vast majority of calls are completely uncontroversial. The question is what percentage of difficult calls do umpires get right. And it would appear that umpires do not stack up well. An ESPN study of close calls found that umpires get over 20 percent of them wrong. More frequent use of instant replays might correct some of these calls, but it would do so at the expense of severely damaging umpires’ credibility, which would impair their ability to do all the other important aspects of their job.
Second, in crucial moments, it’s imperative for umpires to be especially attentive, and for them to make conclusive decisions. If umpires know that they don’t have to get the call right because the cameras can save them, then they’re more likely to get it wrong. And if umpires’ decisions are not final, then what should be the most exciting moments in baseball games will be supplanted by monotonous waiting for umpires to review the footage.
 T.J. Quinn and Willie Weinbaum, “Study shows 1 in 5 close calls wrong,” ESPN.com, Aug. 16, 2010, http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/otl/news/story?id=5464015
Instant replay will place the focus of the game where it belongs—on the players, not the umpires
Umpires are supposed to facilitate a smooth game. When they are the center of attention, it is usually because something has gone wrong. Legendary Hall of Fame umpire Bill Klem accurately stated, “The best umpired game is the game in which the fans cannot recall the umpires who worked it.” The game is supposed to be decided by the feats of the players on the field, not the fallibility of the men in blue. Instant replay will help make this happen.
With instant replay, we would not have had Jim Joyce, the umpire who blew Galarraga’s perfect game, holding a tearful press conference apologizing for his missed call. Instead, we would have had images of Galarraga celebrating his historical achievement with his teammates. The latter, not the former, is what baseball is supposed to be about, and what fans want to see. Instant replay will ensure that baseball revolves around the players, rather than the officials.
 “Bill Klem,” Baseball-Reference.com, http://www.baseball-reference.com/bullpen/Bill_Klem.
Baseball is not just about the players. It’s about managers, coaches, fans, and umpires too. It is a rather narrow view to argue that baseball umpires should remain invisible. Umpires play a central role in every game. They make signals that are meant to attract attention. When a crucial play occurs in the bottom of the ninth inning, all eyes are on the umpire to see what the outcome will be. Bruce Froemming, who broke Klem’s record for most MLB games umpired, had this rejoinder to Klem: “One of the really wrong theories about officiating is that a good official is one you never notice. The umpire who made that statement was probably a real poor official who tried to get his paycheck and hide behind his partners and stay out of trouble all his life. Control of the ballgame is the difference between umpires that show up for the players and the managers.” Rather than denying umpires’ central role, we should acknowledge it.
Joyce’s blown call—and the sorrow he felt afterward—are as memorable, and as part of the culture of baseball, as any celebration of a perfect game. Joyce’s post-game press conference might not go in the record books, but it will remain as much a part of baseball history as Galarraga’s achievement would have. It is pure assertion to argue that that is not what baseball is about or what fans want to see.
 “Umpire Quotes,” Baseball Almanac, http://www.baseball-almanac.com/quotes/umpire_quotes.shtml.
With more accurate calls come more legitimate outcomes to games
There are times when umpires make incorrect calls that determine the outcomes of games or, worse, World Series championships (e.g., Don Denkinger and the 1985 World Series, mentioned above). These erroneous decisions lead to the team that deserved to win actually losing, and vice versa. In short, the results of the games are illegitimate. This is especially unfortunate when fans invest hours to watch a game (or hundreds of hours watching an entire season), only to see the wrong outcome—which could have been entirely avoidable if umpires were allowed to review their decision.Improve this
This debate is clearly highlighting a difference in philosophy about the role of the umpire. Proposition first says that umpires should not be a central part of the game (see Argument Four). Now Proposition says that a game’s outcome is illegitimate if it was decided by a poor call by an umpire. This is the wrong way of looking at it. As long as the umpire tried his best to make an accurate judgment, then his call is “legitimate,” as is anything that flows from it. “Legitimacy” is not the same as “accuracy.” Indeed, the umpire’s call might be the sole source of legitimacy. Proposition previously quoted legendary umpire Bill Klem, but remember two of Klem’s other statements: “Gentlemen, he was out because I said he was out,” and “It ain’t nothin’ till I call it.” There is no such thing as a “legitimate” outcome divorced from the context of an umpire’s call.
 “Bill Klem,” Baseball-Reference.com, http://www.baseball-reference.com/bullpen/Bill_Klem.
Instant replay will take too long
We already see it with boundary calls: The umpires need to go to the review station, then they need to watch the footage of the play several times, then they need to weigh whether the footage is convincing enough to meet the requisite burden of proof, and then they need to return to the field and signal their decision. In the meantime, tens of thousands of fans are sitting in the stands waiting, millions of people are watching at home, the pitcher is becoming less limber, and any momentum to the game is completely lost. It’s often noted that baseball is a slow sport. “Baseball has no clock,” the saying goes. Instant replay will slow down an already-slow game.
 William Deresiewicz, “Metaphors We Play By,” American Scholar, June 6, 2011, http://theamericanscholar.org/metaphors-we-play-by/.
Baseball is indeed a slow sport, but instant replay will simply replace—rather than add to—other aspects that contribute to its snail-like pace.
First, every time there is a controversial play where the umpire might have made a bad call, a player or the manager will come out and argue with the umpire. This arguing takes up about as much time as a video review would. But with a video review, there would be no arguing; everyone would know the umpires got it right.
Second, when an umpire is not certain about his call, he often will confer with the other umpires in a collective attempt for them to arrive at the correct decision. This, too, takes time, and this, too, can be replaced with instant replay, which has the added virtue of being more accurate.
Third, not very many plays will require instant replay, so even if there is a dilatory effect, it will be relatively small.
Finally, if baseball’s pace is such a concern, then MLB should first pursue a host of other steps to speed the game—time limits for pitchers, batters, arguments, seventh-inning stretches, between-inning warm-ups, etc.Improve this
Instant replay will take the human element out of baseball
Baseball, like all sports, “is the pursuit of transcending imperfection.” It is not supposed to be executed with robotic perfection; it is supposed to involve human beings all trying their best to do the best they can.
Fallible umpire calls are part of the drama of baseball. Many people enjoy the excitement that comes with the fallibility of umpire's calls. This sub-plot in baseball in unique and should be preserved.
Indeed, fooling the ump is a time-honored part of the game. It is not cheating; no rule is broken when one pretends to have been hit by a pitch to try to dupe the umpire. It is a colourful, even skilful way to work within the imperfect, very human parameters that the sport.
 Mark Coatney, “The Greatness and Perfection of Missing the Call,” Daily Beast, June 2, 2010, http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/2010/06/03/the-greatness-and-perfection-of-missing-the-call.html.
 Tom Krasovic, “Dusty Baker Defends Umpires Amid Calls for Expanded Instant Replay,” AOL News, Oct. 9, 2010, http://www.aolnews.com/2010/10/09/dusty-baker-defends-umpires-amid-calls-for-expanded-instant-repl/.
Proposition is not arguing for all calls to be made via instant replay. Balls and strikes, for example, are best left to umpires because they are regarded as more subjective, and because there is no video equipment that consistently renders results that are widely viewed as accurate.
Besides, the human element that really matters is that of the players. The umpires’ human element might be substituted for making sure that the players’ human element is what decides the game. The point of the baseball game is for players to win or lose the game, not for umpires to win or lose the game. A baseball game played by robots but umpired by people would have lost its “human element,” but the same certainly would not be said about a baseball game played by humans and officiated by robots (or even just human beings who occasionally consult video footage and interpret it in their human minds).Improve this
Tradition demands that this instant replay not be used
One of the beautiful aspects of baseball is how little it has changed over the years. Just as it was a century ago, you have nine players on the field, batters swinging wooden bats, and umpires dressed in dark colors rendering the decisions. Maintaining tradition honors baseball’s long history. It also helps to promote comparability over time; the feats of today can be held side-by-side with those of 80 years ago. Moreover, it protects baseball against fads and other calls for change that might be popular at a particular moment, but could prove to be disastrous if implemented.Improve this
Baseball looks a lot like the game played 100 years ago. But it also looks very different in many crucial ways. Minorities can now play. The height of the mound has been changed. Night games are now played, with the help of lights. Technology—from the material of bats to the shape of gloves to the design of cleats—has evolved. Even the composition of baseballs is different. If all these things can change without eliciting much objection, then why would instant replay violate a tradition? And even if it did, it’s not clear that that tradition is a valuable one (as opposed to a neutral one or even a downright undesirable one).
 ZombieMonta, “Why baseball purists are dead wrong about instant replay,” Inhistoric, Sept. 5, 2011, http://www.inhistoric.com/2011/9/5/2405135/why-baseball-purists-are-dead-wrong-about-instant-replay.
Many plays don’t lend themselves to video review
There are two types of plays that defy instant replay. The first is one that would belong to a longer sequence of events, called “continuation plays.” Often, when an umpire makes a call, the ball is still in play, and more plays might follow. A commentator offers this scenario: “For example, if the umpire calls a ball foul and replay shows it was fair and the decision is overturned by replay, how do you handle the base runners?” There’s just no easy way for video replay to be used in continuation plays.
If a play is part of a longer sequence of events, then don’t use video review for that play. Only permit it for when the ball is dead or play stops immediately upon the conclusion of the play. Continuation plays can easily be placed outside the scope of instant replay.
Also, there’s no such thing as “normative” calls on a play. If an umpire deems a “phantom tag” sufficient for an out, he is making an incorrect call. The rules do not allow for phantom tags. If instant replay puts an end to this practice, so much the better.
Instant replay might be deceptive or inconclusive
Not all video reviews will lead to an accurate ruling. Sometimes, camera angles could give a tricky, incorrect impression. Or they could shed little light on what actually happened. In these cases, instant replay will afford the appearance of certainty when the reality is much more complicated. In addition, all of the harms of inaccurate calls that Proposition is trying to solve will continue to exist.Improve this
Even if instant replay will not result in 100% accuracy, it will improve the chance that any individual reviewed call will be made correctly. In the status quo, umpires make their calls as if they’re certain, so projecting false certainty really should not be a major concern for the Opposition. What video review will do is ensure that the umpire can be at least as confident about his call as the managers, coaches, and millions of viewers watching at home.Improve this
“Bill Klem.” Baseball-Reference.com. http://www.baseball-reference.com/bullpen/Bill_Klem.
Coatney, Mark. “The Greatness and Perfection of Missing the Call.” Daily Beast. June 2, 2010. http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/2010/06/03/the-greatness-and-perfection-of-missing-the-call.html.
Curry, Jack. “Baseball to Use Replay Reviews on Homers.” New York Times. Aug. 26, 2008. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/27/sports/baseball/27replay.html.
Deresiewicz, William. “Metaphors We Play By.” American Scholar. June 6, 2011. http://theamericanscholar.org/metaphors-we-play-by/.
ESPN.com News Services. “Denkinger supports replay in baseball.” ESPN.com. June 3, 2010. http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/news/story?id=5245891.
Hunsberger, Don. “Let’s bring meaningful instant replay to baseball.” Daily Commercial. June 6, 2010. http://www.dailycommercial.com/060610hunsberger.
Imber, Gil. “Stats Prove MLB Umpires Call 99.5 Percent of Plays Correctly.” Bleacher Report. Oct. 26, 2011. http://bleacherreport.com/articles/911552-defining-the-human-element-mlb-umpires-call-995-of-plays-correctly.
Krasovic, Tom. “Dusty Baker Defends Umpires Amid Calls for Expanded Instant Replay.” AOL News. Oct. 9, 2010. http://www.aolnews.com/2010/10/09/dusty-baker-defends-umpires-amid-calls-for-expanded-instant-repl/.
Major League Baseball. Official Baseball Rules. http://mlb.mlb.com/mlb/downloads/y2010/official_rules/2010_OfficialBaseballRules.pdf.
Posnanski, Joe. “Meals and Squeals.” SI.com. July 27, 2011. http://joeposnanski.si.com/2011/07/27/meals-and-squeals/.
Price, Ed. “Baseball Brunch: Upon Further Review….” AOL News. May 31, 2009. http://www.aolnews.com/2009/05/31/baseball-brunch-upon-further-review/.
Quinn, T.J. and Willie Weinbaum. “Study shows 1 in 5 close calls wrong.” ESPN.com. Aug. 16, 2010. http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/otl/news/story?id=5464015.
Rainey, David W. and Janet D. Larson. “Normative Rules Among Umpires: The ‘Phantom Tag’ at Second Base.” Journal of Sport Behavior. 16(3). Sept. 1993.
“Umpire Quotes.” Baseball Almanac. http://www.baseball-almanac.com/quotes/umpire_quotes.shtml.
Walker, Ben. “MLB Leaning Toward Expanding Instant Replay For 2012.” Associated Press. April 14, 2011. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/04/14/mlb-expanding-instant-replay-2012_n_849274.html.
White, Paul. “Expanding instant replay not an easy call to make for MLB.” USA Today. June 12, 2010. http://www.usatoday.com/sports/baseball/2010-06-10-instant-replay_N.htm.
ZombieMonta. “Why baseball purists are dead wrong about instant replay.” Inhistoric. Sept. 5, 2011. http://www.inhistoric.com/2011/9/5/2405135/why-baseball-purists-are-dead-wrong-about-instant-replay.
Keri, Jonah. “Does Baseball Need Umpires?” Wall Street Journal. Oct. 14, 2009. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704107204574469381382610114.html.
Boswell, Thomas. “The right call: More replays.” Washington Post. Nov. 1, 2009. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/10/31/AR2009103102684.html?hpid=topnews.
Passan, Jeff. “It’s the perfect time to expand replay.” Yahoo! Sports. June 2, 2010. http://sports.yahoo.com/mlb/news?slug=jp-galarragareplay060210.
Samuelsen, Jamie. “Galarraga call proves that time has come for replay in baseball.” Detroit Free Press. June 4, 2010. http://www.freep.com/article/20100604/SPORTS02/100604043/Galarraga-call-proves-that-time-has-come-for-replay-in-baseball.
Douthat, Ross. “Against Instant Replay.” New York Times (blog). June 3, 2010. http://douthat.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/06/03/against-instant-replay/?pagewanted=all.
Hirsch, Steven. “Why Instant Replay Is Unnecessary.” Huffington Post. June 4, 2010. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/steven-hirsch/why-instant-replay-is-unn_b_599971.html.
Kaufman, King. “Why I’m against baseball’s instant replay.” Salon.com. Oct. 11, 2010. http://www.salon.com/2010/10/11/baseball_instant_replay/.
Weber, Bruce. “Replay Isn’t the Kind of Review That Will Make Umpires Better.” New York Times. Nov. 6, 2010. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/07/sports/baseball/07umpire.html?pagewanted=all
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