Baltimore Orioles: Can MLB and other sports become over-legislated?

I’m kind of easing back into reporting on the Baltimore Orioles – so bear with me! The fact is that most MLB teams don’t make too many waves this time of year. The league wants teams to lay low so as to keep the focus of the baseball world on the playoffs and the teams still in contention.

However I saw something over the weekend that’s somewhat relevant in MLB. This past Sunday when the Washington Redskins were playing the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFL, a Redskins’ player celebrated a touchdown by pretending to do a jump-shot with the football over the goal post. The player was immediately flagged for taunting, and the Redskins penalized 15 yards.

Now first off any of you who have read me for some time know that I’m not huge on celebrations in sports. So I’m in favor of reigning some of this stuff in – regardless of what anyone might say or think, we don’t want to see endzone-style dances after home runs in baseball. However that’s not the point – in this case, the NFL has done something of which MLB has been guilty several times as well: over-legislation.

What the Redskins’ player did was not something that was on the “list” of banned celebrations. However there’s also a rule against using the ball as a prop in a celebration. So the official interpreted that as using the ball as a prop, which is why he threw a flag. When you leave things open to interpretation, sometimes rules get bent out of wack.

We’ve see this in MLB – and sometimes far too often and at far too important moments. Look at instant replay for instance; while the term irrefutable evidence to overturn the call on the field is a good intention, it’s also far too broad. It allows us to wonder what exactly constitutes irrefutable evidence? What’s irrefutable to one umpire might not be to another.

You get the idea. My point in saying all of this is that in many cases the calls in games are worse than they were prior to replay being a thing. I can’t say how many times this past season I tweeted something along the lines of if it’s taking this long the evidence is inconclusive, only to find out that the call had been reversed. And I suspect that part of that is due to the fact that the umpires are trying to figure out if the evidence is irrefutable. Was the ball moving in the first baseman’s mitt, or was it in the back of the glove? Did the catcher have the ball when he blocked home plate, or was it not in his mitt?

Every rule or policy has it’s downside. However when you start over-legislating things, it’s almost worse than having no rules at all. And the player doing the jump shot after a touchdown is a prime example. That act in and of itself isn’t against the rules. But if one official interprets it as using the ball as a prop, he has the option of throwing a flag. And the same could be true in baseball…remember the takeout slide rules at second base?

The point is that in many cases the more we legislate, the more we see unintended consequences. Again as an example, in baseball a tie goes to the runner. However that’s not an “official rule.” So on replay if a runner is shown to have been tied with the ball, the call is not supposed to be overturned. Because since a tie isn’t written into the rules, technically that’s not hard core evidence to overturn the call on the field. So as opposed to having all of these rules, why not just say if it’s a tie or the runner arrives to the base first he’s safe?

At the end of the day, I agree with instant replay. But leagues are muddying the waters across the board by having too many regulations. The more that’s written in the rules, the more can be misinterpreted, or interpreted in the opposite manner in which it was intended.

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