Time to Increase Capital for Labor Substitution in Baseball

One of the hallmarks of union activity is resisting capital for labor substitution.  To keep wages high, it’s important to limit the ability of employers to substitute one resource for another resource.  The UAW does this.  The MLB players’ union did this in the 1994-1995 strike when it fought the use of replacement players and the MLB umpires’ union has done this in its fight against instant  replay.

Of course, another hallmark of union activity is that unions, in trying to obtain higher rates of pay for their members, are actually one of the driving forces behind capital for labor substitution.  Firms naturally try to use the most efficient resource mix to produce its goods, and artificially raising wage rates drives employers to seek lower cost substitute resources.  So the union activity is a double-edged sword in this regard.

But that’s beside the point.  You no doubt know that Armando Galarraga had a perfect game taken away from him by a bad call made by umpire Jim Joyce on what should have been the 27th out of the game.  Replays clearly show that the batter, Jason Donald, was out on the play, and it was not even close.  You could tell by the reaction of Donald that even he knew Joyce screwed up in a big way.  But to his credit, Joyce admitted he made a horrible call and apologized to Galarraga immediately after the game.

The technology is there to use instant replay to improve the quality of games for fans, players, and coaches alike, even if it comes at the marginal detriment of umpires.  Let’s do what football has done and expand the use of technology and get the calls right.  Expand the use of instant replay.

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Author: Phil Miller

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6 thoughts on “Time to Increase Capital for Labor Substitution in Baseball”

  1. I still think the most reasonable solution is to accept that capital, in the form of instant replay, is a complement rather than substitute for labor. The solution that I’ve heard is to get a fifth umpire at the replay booth to review calls who can then tell the other umpires if the call should have gone a different way. You’d think this would buy off the umpire’s union too by increasing the number of jobs.

  2. Adding instant replay isn’t going to help Galarraga. Instead of being enshrined in the history books he’ll be forever known as “that poor schmuck.” Negative attention is worse than no attention at all.

    Now, to make matters worse, Bud Selig (a/k/a the world’s best argument for retroactive contraception) has said he won’t try to overturn Joyce’s ruling. Perhaps the courts will give Galarraga relief, I don’t know if that’s possible.

  3. From the department of unintended consequences comes: 4 hour baseball games! I am all for instant replay, but I would trust the same guys who it is intended to hedge against to captain its use. If they have someone in a booth upstairs do the review, Id like to see a batter’s box or pitcher shot clock instituted to offset the presumed increase in total game time

  4. Oddly, many of the proposals to use more capital to get calls right also involves more labor. For example, having one (or two) officials using HD video feeds to monitor on-field calls and automatically over-ruling the on-field call is it’s clearly wrong…more labor AND more capital…The umpire’s union should be all over this…

  5. Don and Tucker: True enough, but the skills to work the new apital aren’t generally the skills possessed by current union membership. So while the union may grow, those that have the current vote in union matters have a fear that their usefulness – if I can put it that way – may get pushed out the door in some respect.

    I’m not sure to what extent this is true in the umpires’ union, but I think this explains why unions tend to resist capital for labor substitution.

  6. Baseball commissioner Selig has indicated that he will likely retire at the end of his contract. He has an agenda, a “to do” list, and instant replay is not on that list. So, unless Selig changes his priorities, there’s little use to discussing the matter. It’s just not on the radar screen at the MLB HQ.

    In regards to Galarraga getting his perfect game into the history books, I am sure it will happen. The Commissioner has the power to rule on the issue, and either Selig will change the ruling on his way out the door, or the next commissioner will do it. Politically, it’s an easy way to earn a little love from the fans.

    Lastly, in regards to labor, baseball doesn’t need more umpires, it can really get along with fewer umpires. I will never live to see it, but some day, balls and strikes will be called by a person in a booth someplace using cameras and computer software, something like the pilots in Nevada that captain the drones in Afghanistan. We will have one umpire sitting in front of two dozen television screens miked up with the lone umpire on the field. Technologically, this is already doable.

    Standing in the way of progress is like standing on the railroad tracks, you’re perfectly fine till a train comes along. And that train will eventually come along.

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