So here's some questions. Why did baseball decide not to mess with instant replay at the general managers' meetings?
Because they don't see the need.
Why don't they see the need?
|Bud Selig knows where the money is ... and it's not in instant replay. (US Presswire)|
Is Bud Selig a stick in the mud?
No, he actually is quite active in some areas. Expanding the playoffs, extending them into November, MLB.com, stuff like that?
And why did he do those things?
Because they do bring in money.
So the conclusion we can reach here is?
When replay makes lots of money, you'll have replay. Until then, you won't. Simple as that.
After the postseason the umpires as a collective just had, the cries for universal replay, umpires replaced by robots, even fully animatronic games in Oakland and Washington to cut down on the need for ushers and concessionaires, were deafening. Tim McClelland, one of the game's best, even managed to miss two outs within four feet of each other, which is even harder to do than anyone realizes.
But when the discussion about expanding replay hit the table, it died in part because Selig doesn't like replay. It isn't part of the fabric of the game.
And maybe it isn't. We suspect you could avoid the need for replay with better trained (as in educated and conditioned) umpires who aren't actually rooted to one spot hoping they're in the right place to make the best available call. Or you could put umpires on the foul lines for every game so that they are better prepared for the task when it gets to October.
Miller's Bull Pennings
Or maybe you could have a postseason in which so many of the top umpires weren't unavailable due to injury (thanks to Tracy Ringolsby of Foxsports.com for the news on that) or the idiotic rotation rule, which rewards just being around long enough rather than merit.
But that's not what we're on about here. What we're on about is Bud, who is flexible and even aggressive when you can show him how he and his employers make more money off a change in procedure, but is otherwise a profound traditionalist. If he thought there was money in bringing the Browns back to St. Louis, Baltimore would lose its team yesterday.
This is a disturbing notion because it shows that he isn't the hidebound romantic who believes that a little good-natured human error is good for the soul, or the radical bomb-thrower who would electrify outfield walls if he thought it could get more of the MMA crowd out to the ballpark.
He is what he's always been -- a superb inside politician, vote counter and sniffer of money on the table. You decide how you feel about that, but it's the truth nonetheless.
This is the troubling thing about Bud, and why his legacy isn't as simple as "He's a buffoon" or "He just loved the game." That's too simple by a factor of about 12. He changes when you can pencil it out for him.
And replay isn't one of those things that pencils out. How do you take in money when an umpire kicks a play? You don't, unless you think having fan polls where you can vote on a close call for $10 and wait for two minutes for the votes to come in is a good idea.
Or, if you're comfortable with "This blown double-play call is brought to you by Jerry Crawford, who is brought to you by AAMCO. When you need to muffle a manager who is jumping around like a hyperactive 8-year-old to argue about a call he probably never saw, call AAMCO."
Our own position on replay is that it is inevitable and intrusive and helpful. Like anything else, it has its good, bad and stupid sides, because humans implement them, and humans are. .. well, you know.
But who gives a damn about that? What we want to show is that Bud is ready to embrace technology when it has the capacity to print money, and when it doesn't, he calls it old-school.
There is something oddly noble about that. Also, coldly cynical. And both those things apply to Our Bud in many ways. His Hall of Fame plaque will read, "Sometimes clever, sometimes insightful, sometimes generous, sometimes dim, sometimes archaic, but always able to hear a quarter hit a snowbank at 600 yards."
So for all you folks who want replay, your argument isn't, "But I saw Phil Cuzzi and his 20/800 vision screw Joe Mauer on a play that actually didn't change the course of a game, and something must be done!" It's, "Bud, I think we got a deal with Lenscrafters."
Then, you'll have replay on spitting sunflower seeds. Also brought to you by David's, the seed to spit when you're spitting seeds.
Ray Ratto is a columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle.