Baseball On My Brain

Today marks the end of an era
August 27, 2008, 4:18 pm
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Today, Wednesday, August 27, 2008, is the end of an era.

Hopefully you got the chance to attend a ballgame today, because it will be the last one of its kind for the foreseeable – and as of tomorrow – reviewable future.

Baseball loses some its history and in my opinion, some of its charm when instant replay goes into effect. Boundary calls will suddenly be subject to review by camera and videotape, and human calls can be overturned by the power of the camera.

What bothers me about this is that we have diminished the value of human judgment. We tell ourselves that we are moving closer to perfection by using tools to definitively tell what happened. We think it makes us and the game better; to me, it makes us worse.

We haven’t sharpened the ability of the decision makers, we have reminded ourselves that human ability isn’t and most likely can never be as sharp as our own inventions. We have created tools that when operated correctly by humans, replace the human ability to make the correct call.

Baseball has always been about showcasing human ability: the pitcher’s ability to strike out the hitter, and the hitter’s ability to take a round bat and hit a round ball squarely, all while that pitch is being thrown at a myriad of speeds, directions, and flight paths.

Umpires are no different – they are expected to see those pitches moving through time and space, and those balls sailing away from them, over awkward fences in a multitude of colors and into a sea of people and see exactly what happens. For the most part, they get the call right. Unfortunately, sometimes they miss the call.

We want to make the game of baseball fair and accurate – a noble goal. We want every call to be right and every game to finish wrinkle free. But baseball is no different than the rest of life – sometimes the cop pulls over the wrong car and someone gets a ticket that didn’t deserve it.

It’s stinks, and in microanalysis, it is a travesty. But averaged over the course of a season – or a lifetime – things generally even out. Unfortunately, with the millions of dollars that can come from an appearance in the postseason, those day-to-day events become life changers.

Today, part of baseball history dies, and I mourn it. It will be interesting telling future generations about the days when there were no umpires, no cameras, no tape machines and no phone calls to an office in New York City. It will be a conversation filled with longing when I tell them that we used to rely exclusively on the ability of our fellow human beings, and to me, it was better that way.


2 Comments so far
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Totally agree. Sad to see America’s favorite pastime change for the sake of “keeping up with the times”…human error is part of the game.

Comment by sheepy712

The idea of “keeping up with the times” is one that is such a false sense of compulsion. I can’t help but think that baseball almost has an obligation not to keep up with the times; not to be part of the movement towards perfection.

Why is it so hard to accept imperfection? Have we raised the stakes so high that anything less than a perfect call by an umpire stands to ruin an individual? Or have we just made it that way in our minds? Have we made baseball and its role in our lives more important than it needs to be?

Comment by Pat Lagreid

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