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Instant replay is here, above the protestations of umpires, Luddites, and impatient fans.

Of those three groups, only the latter have a real argument. Replay probably will slow down games, but it doesn’t have to. The system that is being instituted is much like the NFL’s, where the officials have to leave the field of play, stick their heads into a booth, and come out minutes later with a decision.

But what if instead, the crew chief was given a tablet PC (something a bit larger than an iPhone) with a custom-made application that is administered by the MLBAM offices. Each baseline would be equipped with a broadband router, which would kill two birds with one stone (stadium WiFi will be in high demand as smartphones gain marketshare). The crew chief wouldn’t have to leave the field, and he could confer with the other umpires as he would have last week.

The off-field monitors could be kept as a backup plan, in case the mini-PC malfunctions. If the call could be made on the field in even 75 percent of replay situations, a significant amount of time could be saved.

Now, while the umpires don’t have a real legitimate gripe, they probably should fight this. Although it’s taken for granted that human umpires will remain a part of the game (partly because old habits tend to die hard in MLB), there are already several aspects of the game in which they could be rendered obsolete.

Tactile and motion sensors are becoming more and more prevalent in major sports. Tennis, in particular, has instituted this technology to assist human umpires. When Michael Phelps touches the wall a split second before his opponent, a human isn’t making the call. If MLB wanted, they could easily install sensors to make fair/foul calls, and probably call balls and strikes.

Not that this will happen any time soon, but at some point the cost savings may become too large to ignore. If nothing else, it will be a bargaining chip for the league against the umpires union.

Feedback? Write a comment, or e-mail the author at shawn(AT)squawkingbaseball.com

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