Sports Law Blog
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Sunday, June 13, 2010
MLB players and replay

According to a poll of 100 Major League players: 77% oppose the use of replay on the base paths, 62 % oppose it on fair/foul calls, and 86 % said Bud Selig was correct not to retroactively award Armando Galarraga a perfect game.

What do we do with this information as we consider the increasing use of replay? Should the players' views receive some consideration and even a certain deference? After all, they have the most directly and immediately on the line with a blown call (despite what fans of the team may believe). My speculation, by the way, is that players accept umpire mistakes because they believe that, on average, the disadvantages from bad calls even out over the course of a long season or even series. In other words, just as many bad calls will go for us as against us, so why change.


One thing to consider, as we use replay more and more, is the loss of "outcome-based officiating." This happens most in basketball, but also in the other sports. Where the official decides what outcome is fair, then maps the correct call to it.

The easiest example is in basketball, where player A fouls player B, and the ball last touches player B on its way out of bounds. The objectively correct calls are either "Foul on player A" or "Out of bounds off of player B." Yet the official will often call "Out of bounds off player A." Because the correct outcome is that player B gets the ball back.

This kind of officiating is, IMO, good, and done in all sports. I fear that replay will take that away, and we'll start examining things to the inch, instead of examining how things should turn out.

Anonymous Anonymous -- 6/15/2010 12:46 PM  

This is a great point and one that is lost in the simplicity of the judge-as-umpire metaphor. We used to acknowledge that judges do and should act this way--we used to call this discretion or equity or justice or something.

Blogger Howard Wasserman -- 6/16/2010 10:38 AM  

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