April 18, 2014

Editorial: Replay fits well with baseball

After the first couple of weeks of the Major League Baseball season, we’d say the sport’s first attempt at instant replay has gone well.

In fact, in many ways, baseball is the ideal sport for it.

Baseball has long endured the reputation for resistance to innovation and for too much deliberation on the field. Non-stop action has rarely described a baseball game.

For generations, that was all right, since there was little or no competition with which to compare it. But the emergence of football 50 or so years ago and, later, basketball as prime sports has forced baseball to consider new ideas destined to improve the game.

One of those was instant replay to get umpire calls right. Some bad calls, over the eons, have been key moments in baseball lore.

The baseball lords long feared instant replay would slow the game down.

That would be almost impossible. Baseball does not rely on a pace, as football and basketball do. To stop a football game or a basketball game while officials study various angles in replay can halt or even shift momentum.

Baseball’s momentum emerges after several games, not within one game. A baseball game is determined most notably by a pitcher’s ability to confound each hitter. Momentum scarcely plays a role in that.

If baseball is worried about the slowness of a game, it ought to consider limiting how many times, and for how long, a batter is allowed to stop the action, step out of the batter’s box and adjust his batting glove. That is a nervous habit that has been allowed to seep into the game and add, all told, maybe an hour to the length of a contest.

Boston Red Sox shortstop Nomar Garciaparra was perhaps the first exponent of that maneuver, and it is a wretched legacy.

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