In an historic move, baseball has finally stepped into the 21st Century OR slowed down an already slow-paced game, depending on your viewpoint, by approving a comprehensive expansion of instant replay.
Adopting a version of the NFL coaches challenge rule, managers will have one challenge to use during the game. If the play is called in the manager’s favor, his team will receive another challenge. Once the seventh inning begins, the umpire crew chief will decide if a play is reviewable.
Each review will be communicated with a Replay Command Center located at MLB Advanced Media’s headquarters in New York. There a big league umpire will be charged with making the final determination based on “the continuing standard of whether there is clear and convincing evidence.” This is much like the system implemented by the NHL where the referee phones an off-site video center that ultimately makes the call.
Each team will be allowed to have someone watching the video field from inside the clubhouse who can inform the dugout if a challenge should be issued.
Reviewable calls include:
- Home runs
- Ground rule doubles
- Fan interference
- Stadium boundary calls (meaning if a fielder falls into the stands or the ball lands in the stands triggering a dead ball)
- Force play (though a fielder’s phantom touching of second base during a double play is NOT reviewable)
- Tag play
- Fair/foul in outfield
- Trapped balls
- Batter hit by pitch (hmm, wish this was in place in 2009’s Game 163)
- Timing play (if a runner scores before the final out)
- Touching a base
- Passing runners
- Record keeping (proper ball, strike, out count)
After years of dragging their feet, baseball has fully endorsed the expanded replay with a unanimous decision from all 30 teams. The expansion will begin at the start of the upcoming season.
I have always rejected the notion of baseball having the “human element,” and that it’s okay for an umpire to occasionally get a call wrong. I think last year’s atrocious season for umpiring finally convinced the owners that this was the proper action.
That said, I still have some questions. Can the manager or pitching coach visit the mound to cause a delay while the clubhouse replay person decides if the call is worthy of a challenge? Will the umpires have to run down the tunnel like they do on home run calls? Will seemingly EVERY somewhat close play be reviewed in the final three innings, thus slowly the game down?
While there may be some bugs to work out, and I’m not happy the second base coverage on a double play can not be looked at, I am happy to see baseball finally embracing the video technology available today.
What’s your take on enhanced replay?