The perfectly imperfect game

Aug. 22, 2013 @ 06:44 AM

Baseball fans and managers have long wanted to toss the umpires after a bad call instead of the other way around. With Bud Selig announcing plans for expanded replay in 2014, MLB has done if for them.

According to a recent report, the new replay system would cover 89 percent of the plays on the field. The technology is in place to bump that number to 100 percent and it would not surprise me if every play was subject to review in the near future. If that’s the case, why have umpires at all? Why not stick a robot behind the plate? A perfect call would be made every time and everybody wants to be perfect, right?

Wrong. 

Baseball is not about perfection. Baseball is built around overcoming failure. Consider the fact that the best hitters fail seven out of ten times. That’s why we cheer when a slugger is 0-3 with three strikeouts and then belts a walk off homer. He is treated like a hero, but his success rate is only 25 percent.

The same could be said of fielders and umpires. How boring would baseball be if an outfielder always made even the routine play 100 percent of the time?

More than any other sport, baseball needs mistakes. I know I don’t speak for every baseball fan, but it makes me feel good when a multimillion dollar athlete botches a play that an 8-yea- old should have made. It reminds me that nobody’s perfect.

Some may argue that the players don’t need to be perfect but umpires do. Why? If the umpires got it right all  the time, fans would no longer have the privilege of yelling “Come on blue,” or “Hey, ump, a blind man could have made that call,” at the ball park.

Bobby Cox would have never come charging out of the Braves dugout and been tossed a record  number, 158 times. Fans would not have cheered and chanted his name and a great piece of baseball history would have been lost. Sometimes perfection comes at too high a price.

Star Trek gives us a glimpse of what baseball would be like with perfect umpires. When captain Benjamin Sisko is challenged to a baseball game by the Vulcans, he accepts. Both sides decide to put Odo, an alien who is incapable of making mistakes, behind the plate as the umpire Midway through a dull game, however, Sisko tells Odo that he is missing an important part of the game and to blow a close call every once in a while. He does and quickly ejects Sisko for arguing the call. As the captain is walking off the field, a big grin splits his face and he yells, “Now that’s baseball.”

I couldn’t agree more.

Admittedly, umpires will still make mistakes if the new replay system is put in place. But with “Big Brother” watching every play, those mistakes can easily be fixed. Some mistakes don’t need fixing.

How else are you supposed to learn from them and improve? Then again, umpires won’t need to improve, the camera never lies and will always make the right call. They don’t need to worry anymore.

With replay, umpires would have about as much to do on the field as a designated hitter.

So here’s hoping the powers that be come to their senses and vote down expanded replay. Yes, baseball is an imperfect game, but that’s perfectly fine with me.