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Published: Monday, 1/27/2014


Instant umpire

With apologies to the author of Casey at the Bat: Somewhere in this favored land, the sun is shining bright. But there is no joy in Puristville — the mighty human element has struck out.

Not really. But Major League Baseball has decided to embrace instant replay more fully. Not everybody may like it; we say hooray.

All 30 major-league clubs have made the call, with backing from unions that represent players and umpires. The decision, which was under discussion for about a year, was completed at this month’s meeting of team owners. The new rules will take effect this season.

Instant replay has been used in the majors since 2008 for questionable home runs. It now will expand to other types of situations, such as tag plays, stolen bases, and pickoffs.

That use of technology may curtail the traditional scene of a manager doing an enraged-bull impersonation before an umpire who is impervious to threat. But that pantomime won’t be much missed.

Fans don’t have to be purists to fear that games, which can drag on past three hours, will last even longer. But Major League Baseball tested the replay policies last year in the Arizona Fall League. Managers will be limited to one challenge per game, and will gain another only if their appeal succeeds.

The technology exists, so why not use it? Umpires generally do an excellent job, but it’s better that the risk of blown calls is minimized.

The human element is not completely removed from the game. Balls and strikes are not subject to review, so Mighty Casey still can strike out.

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