I have a long drive to work each morning and most mornings, I tune into XM 175 to hear baseball. Jim Memelo and Rob Dibble are the hosts and while I appreciate Jim’s angle, Rob’s drives me nuts most of the time. However, this morning, I found myself at odds with both of them and their stance on instant replay.
They both felt this morning that if baseball were to add expanded use of instant replay for the 2010 post-season, it would be a reactionary move to what Derek Jeter did on Wednesday night. For them, the worst thing baseball could do would be to change the integrity of the game to protect the integrity of the game in the middle of the season. My counterpoint to that is baseball is already doing this each and every baseball season starting on September 1st.
Baseball allows teams to expand the active roster to 40 players on September 1st which gives managers up to 15 new toys to play with in games down the stretch. Teams out of contention will sit proven veterans for rookies to give them a chance to show what they have and potentially weakening the quality of opponent a playoff contender faces. Teams in contention suddenly make a lot more moves in a game they otherwise would not make. Two times last week, Joe Maddon made six or more personnel changes in the late innings of a game – a total I don’t believe he has approached any other time this season.
All of the extra personnel changes affect the integrity of the game because managers are able to employ even more strategy with the extra personnel on the team. They are not afraid to pinch-hit for their second catcher knowing they have a third one on the bench. They can go all Tony LaRussa and cycle pitchers in and out of late innings to play the situation and they can give up the Designated Hitter as Maddon has done three times this month knowing they can pinch-hit for that spot later with the extra players on the roster.
Adding 15 new names to the rosters each September drastically alters the integrity of the game from a managerial and a quality of play standpoint. Adding expanded use of instant replay, right now, does neither. It would have taken an instant replay official 30 seconds to overrule the call made by Lance Barksdale the other night. Instead, we were treated to a five minute act of Jeter acting hurt and Maddon telling the officiating crew just how badly they screwed the pooch with their call.
It is bad enough baseball too often falls back on tradition as an excuse to ignore ways to improve the quality of the game but the excuse that adding replay in season is bad because it changes the integrity of the rules is laughable. It is fair because it applies to all 30 teams and it would in no way change how a pitcher pitches, how a hitter swings, or how a fielder fields a ball. It would hold those in charge of officiating the game more accountable and if they are too afraid of that, they need to pursue another career because we fans have had to tolerate this nonsense long enough.