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This article is from the In-Depth Report The Science of Baseball
60-Second Science

Baseball Luddites Need Video

Because umpires look for forensic evidence when available, their rejection of video is philosophically incoherent and harms baseball. Steve Mirsky reports.

[The following is an exact transcript of this podcast.]

Here’s why it’s time for instant replay in major league baseball. Don’t worry, this is a technology story. Four times within a week recently, what were clearly home runs according to the video were ruled otherwise by umpires. I happened to be watching two of the incidents as they happened. Baseball has long declined to use replay because officials insisted that the human factor of umpiring was part of the game. Even if it meant getting calls wrong, just as players make fielding errors. 

Here’s why that’s bunk. Umpires do in fact feel free to look for conventional evidence after the fact. They will consult with other umpires, comparing their differing eyewitness accounts. And they will employ forensic techniques to the ball itself. For example, they examine it for yellow paint that might have transferred to it when it hit a yellow wall over the outfield fence. These attempts to find and use evidence make the non-use of video replay a capricious rejection of technology. Fans shouldn’t feel when they root, root, root for the home team, if they don’t win it’s a shame.

—Steve Mirsky

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