- The Washington Times - Monday, June 2, 2008

Each week, Nationals beat writers Mark Zuckerman and Ben Goessling debate a baseball issue. This week: Should Major League Baseball institute instant replay?

MARK ZUCKERMAN: I’m probably in the minority on this one, but I don’t like instant replay, especially in baseball. I understand that there have been a few prominent blown calls lately, but that’s not enough to sway my opinion. Replay would slow down an already-slow game considerably.

And I think it actually would lead to more missed calls by umpires, who wouldn’t feel the same pressure to get it right the first time because they would know in the back of their minds that it will just be reviewed by replay anyway.

BEN GOESSLING: The first thing that comes to mind when I think about this, oddly enough, is a Sports Illustrated piece from last year in which Tom Verducci spent a few days as an umpire. He had a scene in there that depicted how mad umpires get at themselves when they miss a call. These are people that take a lot of pride in their work, so I don’t see them using replay as a crutch.

And if you think about it, aren’t most of the calls they’re talking about using it for (mostly fair/foul debates on home runs) already causes of manager-vs.-umpire arguments that slow games down anyway? I’m not as pro-replay as I would be with, say, the NFL, but if there’s going to be deliberation over a call, it might as well be productive - as much fun as those shouting matches are.

MZ: Yes, the plan for now would include using replay only on fair/foul calls and questionable home runs. But don’t you think that opens the door for other situations? What about bang-bang plays at the plate or on the bases? What about diving catches at the ground? And, of course, how long until someone starts pushing for replay on balls and strikes?

Baseball is a game played by humans, coached by humans and officiated by humans. These guys get more than 99 percent of their calls right. The emphasis should be on getting them to get that number as close to 100 percent as possible without artificial aid.

BG: I can see where there would be some worry about this putting baseball on a slippery slope. But the other sports have done a fairly good job of compartmentalizing replay and keeping it from being consulted in every possible situation. And you’re right when you say baseball is a game played, coached and officiated by humans.

The problem with that, though, is that you’re not going to get much closer to 100 percent accuracy than you are now. I’m all for umpires continuing to improve, but it’s never going to be perfect. If replay could help in game-changing situations (like boundary calls) without being too intrusive, I’d say it’s worth trying.