Tired of MLB censoring replays at Rogers Centre

Toronto Blue Jays batter John McDonald is congratulated by teammates after hitting a sacrifice fly...

Toronto Blue Jays batter John McDonald is congratulated by teammates after hitting a sacrifice fly to score Rajai Davis during the 14th inning of their MLB American League baseball game against the Seattle Mariners in Toronto July 19, 2011. (REUTERS/Mike Cassese)

STEVE SIMMONS, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 3:14 PM ET

TORONTO - From my seat in Section 127, in the eighth inning of a tie game Tuesday night, Aaron Hill looked as though he had stolen second base.

But inexplicably — or maybe correctly — he was called out.

The thing is, I don’t know.

An inning later, Corey Patterson attempted to steal second as well. Same play, same result, similar confusion.

Patterson was called out, only this time manager John Farrell made the hasty jog to second base to argue the call with umpire Tom Hallion.

And on the Jumbotron at the Rogers Centre, in a place owned by one of the world’s broadcast and technological giants, kids waved, girls danced, music played and no replay of either close call was shown.

This is just another example of staid old baseball being behind the times. Instead of giving the fans what they want and what is readily available, they instead deny the paying customer information.

Were I watching the game against Seattle from home, I could have stopped the play. paused it, backed it up, paused it again, replayed it again — as many times as I want — just to get a sense of whether the right call had been made.

In the stadium, though, as a ticket buyer, I get the same old, same old on the Jumbotron. I don’t get the answer to the only question I’m interested in. I am paying money to not be able to see what I ostensibly can witness for free (ok, so my Rogers cable bills aren’t free) in my living room.

In simple terms, that’s just wrong. In technological terms, it’s backwards and old school. And at a time when there are complaints of baseball missing a generation and losing appeal to a younger demographic, Major League Baseball should be doing everything possible to enhance the in-stadium experience, rather than strangle and diminish it.

In the last conversation I had with Ted Rogers, he talked somewhat about his vision for the future of all professional sports. He thought the day would come where there would be a portable device of some kind — made or distributed by his company — available at every stadium seat. That way, he said, you could watch the game live and watch whichever and whatever replay was necessary just by clicking a few buttons.

He smiled as he talked of this kind of future.

In Seattle, where the Seahawks play, the future has already arrived. A similar device to which Rogers talked about is given to all season ticket holders of the National Football League team. At every game, they get to pick and choose which replays in stadium they want to watch, when they want to watch it. Seattle is a high-tech town. Similarly, Toronto should be also.

And while Ted Rogers isn’t around anymore, his company is, but Major League Baseball still controls to some extent the stadium experience. There is slight flexibility from team to team, but for the most part all teams must adhere to similar rules of how to deal with in-stadium replay, which means teams are not allowed to “show up” the umpires or do anything that might incite the crowd or distract the players.

For the record, managers are allowed to show up umpires and incite the crowd — but that’s another argument for another day.

According to the Blue Jays, close plays can actually be shown in the stadium but must first be reviewed by the Scoreboard Operator. The problem with that is, by the time the Scoreboard Operator has reviewed the play, it’s probably too late to show the replay.

And clearly, the Blue Jays are one of those teams that have decided to be good soldiers in this. They don’t show close plays and aren’t allowed to show arguments with umpires.

Yet, you go watch big time tennis, which has this replay thing down pat, and the crowd gets to see every disputed call determined electronically on the big screen. Even in the overly sensitive National Hockey League, there is some leeway for the paying customer. Footage from disputed goals that are reviewed by off-ice officials may be replayed in the arena, with the stipulation being it can only be shown once — prior to the call being official and once after the call is official.

That’s fair and honest and it brings some context to the in-stadium experience.

Baseball needs to consider a more open approach for now — and for the future.

steve.simmons@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/simmonssteve


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