Frantz: Replay should be worth the wait during games 

"Officer Flaherty, the clerk inside was terrified and unable to give any kind of positive description, so we have no suspects in the robbery of the gas station yet. But we’re in luck!"

"We have no suspects, but we’re in luck? How’s that?"

"Well, it seems that the store’s surveillance cameras were trained specifically on the entrance to the building and we think we’ll have a clearly identifiable face ready and waiting for us on videotape!"

"I see. But you’re saying you don’t have anyone we can charge at this exact moment, right?"

"Well, technically, no. We don’t know his name and we can’t describe his appearance yet, but we’ve got video! All we have to do is go back through it and look for the guy as he made his escape right through the front door! We’ll have his face, and then we can print a freeze-framed photo of the guy and circulate it in the neighborhood! And once we get a name, we can check him for prior offenses and we can get an address on him! We can get him, sir! Thanks to the videotape, we can get him!"

"Well, son, that’s a nice idea in theory, but you young whippersnappers don’t seem to understand how we do police work around here. We don’t go for all that newfangled gadgetry. We solve crimes with our gut instincts. Besides, wrapping up these cases already takes long enough. You really think the store manager and his customers want to stand around and wait while we look through videotape all afternoon?"

Seems kind of silly, doesn’t it? Sort of far-fetched? No one would be stupid enough to ignore video technology that could aid human efforts in important jobs, all in the interest of expedience, would they?

Try telling that to Major League Baseball’s "old guard," which continues to resist every attempt to correct poor calls by umpires through the use of instant replay.

"Baseball has talked about speeding up the game," Chicago Cubs manager Lou Piniella complained in Toronto on Friday. "It’s all you hear. All of a sudden, they want instant replay? You’re going to have slower games and more restless people in the stands."

Well hell, Lou, we wouldn’t want that. Let’s just let terrible calls stand then. Let’s let games, pennants, and world championships be decided by mistakes rather than getting monumental, game-changing calls right. We wouldn’t want to do anything to make fans restless in the stands.

The news that has Sweet Lou ready to shot-put bases into the stands and kick his cap all over the infield came Friday when reports surfaced that MLB has had discussions with the umpires’ union about instituting a replay system as early as Aug. 1. Earlier plans had called for a trial run in the Arizona Fall League, with potential regular-season use beginning in 2009, but with a recent string of blown calls making headlines, the movement toward replay has been faster than Roger Clemens’ hands at a Mindy McCready concert.

The goal now is to allow umps to fine-tune the new system for a couple of months before the start of the 2008 playoffs, despite the objections of the "purists." Piniella, Joe Morgan, Kevin Kennedy and many others have used the "replay slows the game down" argument about as effectively as they’ve used the "Human error has always been part of the game" complaint. While technically true, human error is a terrible part of the game. It’s something the game should strive to remove and you’d think that a guy known for his temper tantrums after blown calls, such as Piniella, would be all for getting calls right.

Other opponents of replay argue that using the television cameras for home run calls or fair-foul disputes will open the door for bang-bang plays on the bases, or even for balls and strikes. I don’t see it ever getting that far, but even if it does, is that so bad? Baseball, like other sports, is often a game of inches, and if umpires are able to take out an electronic ruler that really works, I think fans will be willing to sit tight, use the bathroom or order another beer while they wait for it to be measured accurately.

Sports personality Bob Frantz is a regular contributor to The Examiner. E-mail him at bfrantz@sfexaminer.com.

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