Saturday, November 16, 2013

Day 230: Expanded Instant Replay for 2014? Yes, Please!

Major league baseball has taken a huge step forward in the process of getting expanded instant replay approved for 2014—the team owners have unanimously approved the funding. Other sports have had replay for over a decade... even the Little League World Series put replay in place in 2008... so needless to say, major league baseball is a little behind the times. There is one more step to the process: the players' and umpires' unions will still need to give their blessing in a meeting scheduled for January 16th. But really, how could they not?

I have mixed feeling about this move. On the one hand, I'll no longer sit on the couch, screaming at the television about a ball that was clearly fair but called foul... or a tag that was clearly made, but called safe. I do think a small piece of me will miss an irate manager storming from the dugout to argue calls. I'll miss a manager's face turning beat red with anger, and the spit that flies from his mouth as he peppers the umpire with a string of profanity. Will we never again see a manager kick dirt over home plate?

In the past, replay in the majors was limited to home runs—whether they were fair or cleared the fences. Now just about every decision will be up for review with the exception of balls and strikes, checked swings and some foul tips. So now tag plays, out/safe at first (or other bases) and fair/foul past the bags will all be included in what can be reviewed.

Similar to the NFL, the managers will have a certain number of challenges per game—in this case, it most likely will be two. If the challenge is upheld, it would not count against the manager's limit. If the manager is out of challenges, umpires will probably be allowed to request a review on their own. When a manager wants to use a challenge, he will let the umpire know, which in turn, will trigger a review in New York. The thinking is that the challenge will need to be made before the next pitch. And if a manager starts to argue the call, he loses his opportunity to challenge that call. The final details are still up in the air, but that's a approximately how it will all go down.

There's a feeling and worry that instant replay will somehow slow down the game and MLB is relying on managers to use their judgment and do their best to not cause delays. But really, often times those arguments between managers or players and umpires can last quite a while—at times, well into the next at bat. And then they end up coming back on the field, getting ejected and causing more delays. No... I think instant replay is going to be a real step forward for MLB.

No one is perfect—not even those self-righteous baseball umpires that, many times, refuse to admit they've made a mistake until the evidence is made public. I would think that replay would not make it appear that umpires can't do their jobs, but just the opposite. It shows good character that they want to get the calls right and aren't afraid to ask for help to ensure the game is played with no questions or protests.

Congratulations, MLB for bringing the sport I love into the 21st century!

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