Saturday, May 25, 2013

Instant replay and the death of the spitball

Replay? Are y'all really certain y'all want instant replay in baseball?

At its core, baseball is entertainment. Yes, it's a sport and who wins matters -- but we go to the ballpark and flip on the television set to be entertained. The Astros are putrid. My girls still enjoy going to the games. Hell, I still enjoy going out to the ballpark to watch a game.

Unlike any other sport in this country, baseball has a past that matters. Sure, there have been changes to the game - longer seasons, different mound heights, smaller strike zones and ballparks with cheap porches - but the numbers still matter.

Everyone knows what 714 means. We know the importance of 715 and 755. The Ryan Express fired off seven no-hitters over his career. Gaylord Perry, the greatest spitballer of all time, is in Cooperstown. Ty Cobb was one of the dirtiest players ever - he's also in the Hall of Fame.

Over the years the adage has been that if you ain't cheating, you ain't playing to win. Baserunners steal signs. Catchers cheat the corners with their gloves. The runner is out at second if the fielder is "in the neighborhood" of the bag. Bats are corked. Goop is slathered under the bill of a ball cap. Metal grommets on gloves are filed to a point. Sunscreen and rosin are mixed on the pitcher's non-throwing arm. Foul lines are sloped. Grass is cut at different lengths.

It's all part of the game. It's part of the show. The idea has always been to try to find that one little edge that can help you hit the ball or get it past the batter.Cheating has always been a part of the game. It's an unwritten rule that provided you don't step over that imaginary line, everyone will look the other way.

I can never forget the look on George Brett's face when the Yankees skipper asked the umpire to measure how far up the bat Brett had smeared pine tar. The rule was you can slather that puppy up so long as it wasn't up the bat more than the distance across home plate. Of course batters pushed the envelope. And no one said a thing because the pitchers were doctoring the baseballs.

But after Brett hit his shot over the outfield fence, someone decided to enforce the rule and Brett was called out after the umpire put the bat down across home plate. Brett was livid.

He wasn't pissed because he was innocent. He was pissed because someone from the other team crossed an imaginary line and ratted him out.

And now someone wants instant replay? Don't they realize if we start using the eye in the sky to check on balls and strikes, bang-bang plays and whether a ball is fair or foul that someone's going to want to take a look at what the pitcher's doing in his glove or behind his back. Someone might see something funny with that bat and want to take a closer look.

Are you sure you want to go there?

1 comment:

Laura Lawhon said...

How much time will that add to each game? Although sometimes the calls are so wrong that we wonder who the bookie is