Today Major League Baseball announced that, pending approval at the Owners’ Meetings in November, the use of replay will expand beginning in 2014. The key points of the increased use of replay are as follows:
- Each manager will have up to 3 replay challenges per game. 1 may be used from innings 1-6, and 2 may be used from innings 7 and beyond.
- Replay cannot be used for balls and strikes.
- If a manager has no more replay challenges, umpires may choose to use replay to decide home run calls.
- Replays will be processed and decided at the MLB offices in New York, not by the on-site umpires.
Bud Selig called today a historic day for baseball, and he’s right. The use of replay has not gone up incrementally, it has literally exploded in baseball. Today replay is used only on home run calls, and its use is decided upon by umpires, who also make the final call. Baseball is adopting a hybrid of the NFL model (a defined number of challenges) and the NHL model (replays adjudicated in a central office, not by on-site officials). So, it’s here folks, and it’s here with a vengeance. Is the increased use of replay good or bad for the game?
Let’s start with the positives of more replay in baseball. Whether you’re a Mets fan, a Yankees fan, or a fan of any other team, you’d probably agree that umpiring in baseball has hit a new low. We’re not talking about the occasional egregious umpiring error (Richie Phillips on the Jeffery Maier ball), it has become the norm to see routine plays called improperly by the umpires. To make matters worse, fans can easily text their friends at home and find out whether the call was missed. Umpires then incur the wrath of the paying customers at the ballpark. The simple fact is that the technology exists to help the umpires get the call right, so why shouldn’t it be used? As fans, we pay to see the game played and officiated properly, and a team’s fortunes should not be impacted by a key blown call. Increased use of replay should lead to games’ outcomes being what they should be, and that’s all we can ask as paying patrons of the sport.
Those who oppose increased replay cite the potential to slow the game down, when the pace of the game is clearly already an issue. 3-hour games are very common (unless it’s a Yankees-Red Sox game, in which case it takes 3 hours to play 6 innings). Under the new rules, there could be 6 manager-directed replays in a game, and even more if the umpires choose to invoke the rule for home runs. Then there’s purist angle, the argument that suggests that umpires’ calls are as much a part of the game as the actions of the players. The purists will say that baseball has a circadian rhythm, and that’s among the beautiful aspects of the game. Persistent use of replay will damage the natural beauty of the only un-timed major sport.
I think getting the call right supersedes all other considerations. I’m all for progress in baseball (and I DO NOT consider the DH to be progress). However, I am rather surprised by the 3-challenge per manager rule. I think that’s too many. I would prefer to see one challenge per manager per game, over an above any home run challenges initiated by the umpires. Giving more replays in the later innings makes no sense to me. A critical call can come in the first inning. Imagine if a team has the bases loaded and two outs, and the hitter sends one down the line. Was it fair or foul? That decision can likely determine the outcome of the game, right there in the first inning. I say force the manager to be strategic about when to use his one challenge (again, incremental to umpire-decided home run reviews). Limiting the challenges will help ameliorate the fear that replay use will significantly slow the game down, yet allow for that one vital call to be correct.
In any case, I like to see baseball trying new things. How do you feel about the increased use of replay, and the proposed format? Let us know in the comments section!