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CE Disrupts Another Biz Again – Baseball

Chalk up another industry that is being disrupted by consumer electronics: Major League Baseball.

It’s been about a week since the 2009 World Series ended here in New York with Yankee fans euphoric, Philadelphia Phillie fans disappointed and Met fans … trying to ignore the spectacle.

Full disclosure here: I am a Yankee fan, less fervent perhaps than years ago, but happy with results of the World Series. But I think there is something that fans of all three teams – and other Major League Baseball fans – can agree on: there has to be more use of video replay, at least in the post-season.

Yes, umpiring during the playoffs and this season was lousier than normal and umpires have to be trained better.

Video replay has to take on a bigger role, due to one major factor: HDTV. Due to the number of HD cameras covering regular season games, not to mention the playoffs, giant HDTV scoreboards nationwide and flat screens throughout most ballparks, the fans at home and in the stands have a better view of controversial calls than the umpires.

During the past couple of weeks MLB said it is “looking at new technology” That technology is HDTV in case MLB didn’t know it.

The ever forward-thinking commissioner of the sport, Bud Selig, during the playoffs was quoted as saying, “Times change, but I’m still in favor of keeping the human element as a part of it.” Great, keep the human element. In business terms that means you are running a multi-billion dollar business without providing a key group of decision makers the equipment to make the correct decisions.

In the same interview Selig said with a straight face, “You have to be very careful when you tamper with a sport.” This is from a guy who allowed a playoff game to be played one night in Denver this year with temperatures below freezing. (And, by the way, the last daytime World Series game was played in 1987.)

Not all calls should use video, but in addition to using it to call close home runs, use it for outs on the bases, balls hit down the baselines and similar plays. Put a fifth video umpire in the press box to check a play if there is a beef on a call. Do it like the NFL but quicker: if it is obviously wrong, change the call. If it isn’t obvious, let the play stand as called. You can work it out so it won’t make long games even longer.

Another development during the World Series that was very disconcerting was the commercials by Walmart and a few others for holiday sales. I don’t blame the retailers who advertised for rushing the seasons. Based on the economy it is easy to see why we saw holiday shopping during the World Series, as well as when those games were played – early November.

Of course if Major League Baseball and Mr. Bud “You have to be very careful when you tamper with a sport” Selig didn’t extend the playoffs a couple of years ago and then change the schedule so TV would have playoff games on every weekend seemingly into Thanksgiving, you wouldn’t see Christmas shopping ads during the Series.

But I digress. HDTV is a fact of life and can be the umpires’ best friend in getting the calls right.