Alger: FOX Hot Spot goes cold

Although I’d like to consider myself a baseball traditionalist, I don’t have my feet dug in the sand when it comes to the use of instant replay.

Baseball has survived over 100 years of gambling, steroids, wars and strikes without it, but the increased use of cameras — not only the one’s used in the broadcast but the thousands in the stands —has put umpires underneath a microscope over the last decade. If an ump misses one call, no matter how close it was, somebody is going to know and he will be chastised for it.

If there is a replay available for an umpire to use to confirm the legitimacy of his call, I’m all for him being able to use it. It’s worked well in the NFL as well as the NHL. It would only be natural for the MLB to increase its use or else it risks losing credibility.

That being said, FOX’s new Hot Spot camera unleashed on viewers Wednesday night during game one of the World Series was borderline ridiculous.

The Hot Spot cam is an infrared camera that FOX uses to detect hot spots on the field. Wednesday, they only used one angle for the camera, directed at home plate. The technology can show whether or not a foul tip was actually tipped or other situations.

The camera was thrust into the spotlight in the ninth inning when Adrian Beltre hit a pitch that apparently hit off his front foot. The umpire didn’t see that the ball hit Beltre’s foot and called it fair and Beltre was thrown out. Replays showed that it looked like the ball hit off the foot and Beltre and manager Ron Washington pled their cases to no avail.

So what did FOX do?

They went to the handy dandy Hot Spot cam to check, and it proved — with a white spot showing where the ball hit on Beltre’s foot — that the umpire made the wrong call.

I found this use of the camera interesting because before the game I read this quote from FOX Sports chairman David Hill in USA Today about the technology.

“We specifically don’t want to be seen as second-guessing umpires,” Hill said.

Then what was the point of the camera?

In FOX’s dire attempt to try to attract viewers, did they really think that showing non-consequential replays in X-ray vision is really going to help?

The sole purpose of that camera was to prove umpires wrong on calls.

To some it only continues to bolster the stance of increasing technology’s presence in baseball.

But for me it was crossing a line.

If a call is so close that only an infrared camera shows the truth, frankly I’m OK with the umpire getting it wrong.

If baseball starts using technology like this in games,  where will it stop?

Are players going to start wearing GPS chips that monitor when they reach a base?

How about we just get rid of the umpire entirely — a position that is as synonymous with the game as the players — and regulate the games with computers?

Increasing technology’s presence in baseball isn’t a bad thing and it can be useful. But the more and more it becomes involved the further away we get away from the game we grew up playing in our backyards.

Sure, people say my view will change when it’s my team on the receiving end of a bad call.

But if there are no umpires, who do I get to blame all of the Mariners’ losses on?

• Tyson Alger, sports writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 237) or by emailing talger@ thegardenisland.com. Follow him on twitter.com/tysonalger.

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