Tradition and Intensity: why replay has no place in baseball

Although umpires do make mistakes, implementing instant replay into Major League Baseball will jeopardize the tradition and excitement of our national pastime.

This photograph was clearly taken at a baseball game. One player is on his stomach, and the other crouched over on one knee. Dust is still in the air around the player in the white uniform – revealing that he has just slid headfirst. The large crowd is on its feet in the background, waving their hands frantically and yelling loudly.

With some contextual information, one may realize that this is a Yankees vs. Red Sox baseball game at the famous Fenway Park in Boston. The catcher, wearing the grey uniform, is Yankees legend Jorge Posada. The runner, wearing the white uniform, is Red Sox centerfielder Jacoby Ellsbury. The Yankees vs. Red Sox rivalry is considered the most historic in professional sports, and Ellsbury is in the process of completing the most exciting play in baseball – a straight steal of home plate. With the sold out crowd of hometown fans rising to their feet, the intensity of this moment seems to project out of the image.

Posada, Ellsbury, and all 42,000 fans in attendance have their eyes locked on one man – the home plate umpire.

Everyone in the stadium and the millions more watching on television are about to see whether the runner is safe or out. Then, right on queue, the umpire puts his fingers together and waves his hands in opposite directions. Ellsbury is safe. The crowd erupts in unison, and continues to provide their centerfielder with a well-deserved standing ovation. It’s bedlam in Boston.

The Yankees dugout is furious. Players and coaches are yelling and pointing at the umpire, arguing that he had made the wrong call. Throughout New York City and its suburbs, fans holler at their television sets – disputing the play as well. However, unlike football or basketball or hockey, this call cannot be overturned. Ellsbury is safe.

This is what makes close plays in baseball so spectacular. In the heat of the moment, the final call will be made. The tension rises to the boiling point because every single person watching the game knows that the call made at that moment will stand forever.

While instant replay would surely lessen the intensity of exciting plays, it would also be fundamentally altering our national pastime. Professional baseball has been played in this country for over 120 years, and it has always been a game built primarily on failure. Even great players fail seven out of ten times they step into the batters box, and errors are often made by fielders on routine plays. Umpires do a tremendous job most of the time, but occasional blown calls do occur. For over a century, bad calls have been part of the game. Managers use these instances as a chance to boost their team’s morale with fiery arguments. The momentum of a game has been completely changed by a team’s response to a poor call. Implementing instant replay takes away an entire aspect of baseball.

Baseball is a game of tradition. Just as fielders make errors, umpires make some bad calls – both are simply part of the game. Furthermore, if umpires were able to reverse their calls after spending ten minutes looking at replays, the game would lose its intensity.

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One comment

  1. Your curation was very strong and well-written. I like how you began by only giving the descriptions of what is going on in the background and then towards the end gave a little more about the actual game and the emotional interpretation behind it. I also enjoyed how you weaved in information about the characters in the picture, which allowed the reader to connect more with what you were writing about.
    My only criticism is that I think your paragraphs could have flowed together a little better. Instead of separating so many of them you could have brought them into a couple big paragraphs instead of so many little ones.

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