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Instant replays in baseball would instantly ruin the play

Unlike American football, where replays have been largely successful for more than a decade, baseball is not neatly interrupted.

The blown call made by Jerry Meals, the home plate umpire, coming as it did in the bottom of the 19th inning of a game between the Pittsburgh Pirates and Atlanta Braves last week, had two unfortunate effects.

First, it wrongly gave the Braves a win which they did not deserve. Almost as troubling, it also gave rise to a renewed call for expanded use of instant replays in baseball.

The former, unfortunate though it may be, nothing can be done about. But the demand for increased instant replays is wrong-headed, and baseball would be wise to continue using them only in very limited applications.

If the game listens to the wrong voices, it could make a mistake. Unlike American football, where replays have been largely successful for more than a decade, baseball is not neatly interrupted.

In American football, a single play is isolated. It starts, stops, and there is a break in action.

A single baseball play is more complicated. With the bases loaded, for example, a ball hit to the outfield sends four runners in motion, plus several defenders, all at different parts of the field. If a call is missed on one runner, it directly impacts them all.

What if a double-play is made based on an incorrect first call - would an umpire erase the first out without erasing the second?

These and other scenarios should serve as a reminder that expanded replays, though a popular response to umpiring mistakes, can be its own slippery slope.


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