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Instant replay is finally here


There's no curmudgeoning your way out of this one. Instant replay is here, and it's probably going to be glorious. Let's hear the arguments against one last time, if only because they're so cute.

It will slow the game down!

Look at the total time for this video:

Then count the seconds of baseball-related action. The ratio is just a little skewed.

the human element or something? Look, I was just told to argue

I like mocking umpires for sport as much as the next writer. But not enough to argue against instant replay.

Is … is that it? Those were the arguments against instant replay the whole freaking time? It's so strange in retrospect. We're going to be madly in love with replay by, oh, April 3, and it will be a cold-dead-hands necessity after that. The particulars, from an MLB press release:

The following play types will be subject to review:

• Home run

• Ground rule double

• Fan interference

• Stadium boundary calls (e.g., fielder into stands, ball into stands triggering dead ball)

• Force play (except the fielder's touching of second base on a double play)

• Tag play (including steals and pickoffs)

• Fair/foul in outfield only

• Trap play in outfield only

• Batter hit by pitch

• Timing play (whether a runner scores before a third out)

• Touching a base (requires appeal)

• Passing runners

• Record keeping (Ball-strike count to a batter, outs, score, and substitutions)

All other plays will not be reviewable; however, the Umpires may still convene on the field at any time to discuss the play.

Managers will get one challenge per game, which is silly, but umpires can institute reviews on their own after the seventh inning. It's imperfect. But it's better. With that, let's run down the best parts of the changes. Everyone likes a list, everyone likes a ranking. It's the Internet.

5. Baseball will allow communication between the dugout and the clubhouse

You don't think that would have been a big deal, but if it weren't specifically allowed, there would have been this weird sub-argument when teams figured out ways to communicate when a play should be challenged. Is that unethical, sending a batboy at full speed down the tunnel to check with a clubbie watching the game on high-def? Doesn't seem like it should be. But people like to argue, and if one team gets to do that, while the visiting team's cable box is mysteriously covered in lemonade and not working, people will argue.

No, just codify it from the start. There are enough stupid arguments without making teams gyrate and dance to get information from TV-watching people to field personnel.

4. Batter hit-by-pitch

Watching Daniel Day-Lewis writhe in agony down the line would be transcendent. He would really make you feel like he's been hit; heck, he'd make you feel like you were the one who was hit. He'd spend all day getting hit by pitches to prepare for the role, and when he started his performance, the sore ribs would help remind him of the pain and torment that batters actually endure when they're hit by a pitch.

But when Shane Victorino does it, it's just obnoxious. New rule for 2015: If a player acts like he was hit, but really wasn't, he's hit in the face with a pie, and for every second he spends wiping the meringue off, he's docked $10,000 in pay.

Worse than the acting, though, is the players who don't get the base they deserve:

Instead of scoring the go-ahead run, Inge grounded into a force out at home. The next batter struck out. Then the Tigers' season ended. People against instant replay generally aren't Tigers fans.

3. Replays on the ballpark scoreboard

Maybe this is overreacting, but I was strongly tempted to put this #1. It's so odious to see a close play at the ballpark and, while the manager is busy getting tossed out, strain to hear the opinion of the people getting food in the concourse. If they moan loud enough, it was probably a blown call. So everyone listen for the people who weren't watching the game in the first place.

The argument for years was that baseball didn't want to foment civil unrest. That is, they didn't want the fans to turn on the umpires and spoil the game after a blown call. But I've attended several NBA games in the last decade, where replays of close calls are commonplace. Number of riots: 0. Well, technically one, but I wasn't there and it had nothing to do with a blown call.

The ballpark experience is a pure, magical thing, and you sneeze tiny little flag droplets after watching just a second of the national pastime, and it's perfect, so perfect, that nothing can ever make it better. Nothing can make it better, that is, except for the ability to watch the damned replays on the damned scoreboard instead of milling about and waiting for the manager to stop yelling at the umpires.

2. Fair/foul calls in the outfield

These are probably the worst variety of blown call. You see it all the time. A ball down the line in a close game, landing on a clearly marked white line. Chalk flies up. The umpire, who is quite literally more prepared and trained for this moment than anyone else on the planet, misses the call because he's imperfect. He's staring at it, staring right at it, but he sees something different than reality.

Tag plays? They happen quickly and in unexpected ways, often with the umpire in a sub-optimal position to see everything. Plays at first? It's hard to watch the ball into the mitt and the foot hitting the base at the same time, so umpires have to listen for the sound, which is imperfect as all heck. When umpires miss those plays, there's at least a little empathy. Maybe you don't express it between spittle-flecked obscenities, but when you root around your subconscious enough, it's in there.

Fair/foul calls seem so danged inexcusable, every time. The umpire's right there. But they're only human. Which is the argument for replay in the first place.

The only reason Alex Rodriguez got to hoist a World Series trophy above his head is because of a blown fair/foul call. Put it that way, and you'll agree the worst kind of blown call is the down-the-line call.

(Okay, not the only reason.)

(Also, ignore how the Twins were helped immensely by a blown call to get in the playoffs in the first place.)

1. The … whole danged thing?

It's … it's glorious. Tag plays. Trap plays. Plays at first. As someone who's watched the NFL both before and after instant replay, it isn't even a question which variety of the sport is better, even if it's annoying to watch the refs leave for five minutes on a play that should be overturned in seconds.

It's also imperfect. The tyranny of the strike zone will still affect the game more than blown calls could ever hope to, and there are weird omissions (like the neighborhood play essentially being written into the rules), but making the game better with replay is the first step. Refining it over the next few decades is the second step.

You will go to sleep tonight with baseball a better sport than it was yesterday. I'm not saying this is like the moon landing or the polio vaccine, but it's not not like the moon landing or polio vaccine. Join the rest of us, and alternate saying "It's about damned time" and "squeeeeeeeeee!"