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Ever notice that wan and languid look worn by Major League Baseball players and fans this year? That is not the lingering affects of steroid withdrawal. It is the unmistakable sign that baseball is dying. The lifeblood of wonderment and argument is passing from the game with every challenge and replay.

Recently, Adam Jones closed on a ground ball single with the alacrity of a cheetah on the hunt. He picked up the ball and dead aimed it at home plate where the catcher snagged it. The glove was thrust at the runner who had dared to test the arm of the outfielder: Bang, bang, out!

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But wait, the call of the umpire was met with a ridiculous fake complaint and cry from the opposing manager. He fake argued while fake peeping at his dugout staff before boldly requesting a fake review. The umpiring crew did their own brief fake review. They then cowered off to hunch beneath the tin cans strung between Baltimore and New York. As if listening to their master's Voice, the crew leaked back onto the field with the master's judgment. Their call vindicated, the runner was out.

In the meantime, the announcer discussed how he couldn't find watch batteries in the city. Seventy percent of the fans began to look at their own watches. The pitcher was robbed of his time and motion and the fabric of space was interrupted.

Why must we wrench out of poetry in motion, uncanny sleight of hand, human magical touch, a rewound video clip that is in no way the match for what we just saw?

Baseball is an argument – an argument about the process and result of rare physical, mental and artistic skills. Once the game begins one person -- not more than four witnesses to the fray -- should decide ball or strike, fair or foul, touched or not, safe or out, caught or dropped -- and who is welcomed or banished from the contest.

The lords of baseball must right this wrong. No fake crying, no challenges, no replay.

Frank E. Long Sr., Baltimore

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To respond to this letter, send an email to talkback@baltimoresun.com. Please include your name and contact information.

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