Major League Baseball made an historic and long awaited decision yesterday regarding the expansion of replay review. Today, video review can only be used to check if a ball is fair or foul on a potential homerun or if the ball went over the outfield fence. MLB’s move on Thursday would expand those capabilities for umpires and managers dramatically.
Under the new system, managers would have the ability to challenge the calls of umpires; much like head coaches can do in the NFL. They would have a total of three challenges per game with one in the first six innings and two more added from the seventh inning until the conclusion of the game. If a manager wins a challenge, they will be able to retain it and use it again later in the game.
An umpiring team in New York would review the calls and would make the final judgment. This is a similar system to the one that the NHL has implemented. Baseball is seen as using the elements of replay that have worked well in other sports. Whether it can be used to perfection in this case remains to be seen, but many have a good deal of optimism for its success.
For me, I think of these new rules in terms of past plays. Historically bad blown calls by umpires are no doubt the reason for expanded instant replay. Whether it was Jeffrey Maier’s clear fan interference call that was missed in the 1996 playoffs or Armando Gallaraga’s “imperfect game” after Jim Joyce blew the final out call at first base, fans should be able to rest easier now that crucial calls will be checked.
Concerns have been raised over what this expanded replay would do to the pace of the game; a game that many see as too slow already. But to the doubters out there, I would pose the following questions. Wouldn’t you rather get the vast majority of the calls right and have the game be ten minutes longer? And, going even further, does it really matter if the game is slightly slower if you enjoy it anyway?
It is very difficult to see how this plan could go wrong in any drastic way. Expanded replay is the next logical step to preserving the integrity of the game at a time when it is under attack on so many different fronts. Getting calls right is such a basic step to ensuring respect for the sport that it makes too much sense not to implement this challenge system.
Fans should see the new replay procedures soon. They are slated to be put in place starting opening day next season.