Sunday, June 10, 2012

The Most Obvious Story In The World

The MLB Umpire's Union is the biggest source of opposition to wider use of instant replay in baseball and is specifically holding up elements of the most recent Collective Bargaining Agreement that would have expanded it. Well, of course, right? It's good to have this story published (good reporting from Jayson Stark, great analysis from Rob Neyer), but it's hardly surprising that umpires are doing all they can to protect their power, prestige, and, oh yeah, jobs themselves.

Not that I have a whole lot of sympathy for the umpires. I don't have much interest in preserving anyone's power for it's own sake. And all the "human element" arguments are garbage- mistakes are not a selling point of the game. No one buys a ticket or changes the channel to a ballgame in hopes of seeing a blown call, or even with a bemused acceptance that one's going to happen. Indeed, the point of umpires is to minimize the number of factors- outside of skill and strategy- that can influence the outcome of the game. Preserving "human error"'s ability to do so is hilariously self-contradictory.

As for their jobs- I don't think there's reason to worry. There's still hundreds- thousands?- of things that have to be decided in a baseball game. No one wants instant replay on all of them, no one wants a computer deciding all of them. There will still be jobs for decades to come.

As for their job being harder- that's a simple matter for the rule book. Take foul balls- the rule book can mandate that an overturned foul call results in a runner at...well, whatever base makes the most sense.

And if that doesn't work, or if there's other plays that can't be so easily legislated, well, why does an umpire's job need to be easy, exactly? There's supposed to be a skill and a craft to it, a reason not just anyone can do it. Otherwise, what's the argument that umpires are necessary at all?

So, c'mon, umpires. Tighten your shit up. You're missing a great game over here!

Two more thoughts on this story:

1) This is kind of the hilarious darkside of my prior post on unions in sports. Major League Baseball can't move on something it knows it needs to do- it has, in fact, already agreed to do- because a union has a seat at the table. Which is a pretty good argument against giving a union an unchecked veto, but a pretty shitty argument against unions as a whole.

2) That it's the umpires holding up instant replay in the name of protecting their own jobs instead of the Traditionalists in the name of...err...tradition is actually a good sign, too. Not that we really should have thought Selig was in the Traditionalists' pocket (the very concept of Interleague Play pretty much disproves that), but still, that a union has more of a say over the game than the Glossy-Eyed sportswriters who long for the ill-defined "good ol' days" of the game? I'll take it.

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