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Major League Baseball Proposes Expanded Replay System

by Photo of Patrick Cranna

The new system proposed by MLB to include manager challenges and an increase in reviewable plays.

Major League Baseball Proposes Expanded Replay System

In a move many thought was long overdue, Major League Baseball announced it intends to expand the use of instant replay in an effort to eliminate bad calls impacting the outcome of games. The proposal would give managers the option to challenge plays they believe the umpire got incorrect, giving them unprecedented control over calls that impact their teams. Similar to the NFL, under the new system managers would be allowed three challenges throughout the course of a game: one to be used in the first 6 innings and two that could be used from the 7th inning until the completion of the game (the first challenge does not carry over to the latter innings if unused). A final decision on disputed calls would be made by an umpiring crew watching video from Major League Baseball's headquarters in New York City.  

"This is a historic moment for baseball," said John Schuerholz, president of the Atlanta Braves, and head of MLB commissioner Bud Selig's committee on instant replay. "For the first time in history, managers will have that power [over calls]. At the same time, the umpires have been very receptive to this. It's a valuable tool for them in helping to reduce incorrect calls that impact games." The plan, which was developed by Schuerholz, MLB Vice President Joe Torre, and advisor Tony LaRussa, still needs to receive approval from 75% of owners in November's meetings as well as the umpires and players union. However, with such ringing endorsements from Commissioner Selig and people around the game, those processes seem little more than necessary formalities. 

It is important to note, however, that not all calls will be reviewable under this new system. The umpires on the field will still have final say over calls such as balls and strikes, hit batters and check swings, but this is still an enormous step forward for a league often maligned for lagging behind and not properly using today's widely-available and superior technology. Even with the implementation of replay for home run's in 2008, Major League Baseball was hesitant to expand video review to other facets of the game. Now it looks like that day has finally come, and the news has been received with mostly positive, yet mixed reviews. 

Many people around and involved with the game applaud baseball for finally taking strides in ensuring that the correct calls are made. For far too long baseball hid behind the mantra that human error is just "a part of the game," leaving umpires with little accountability and consequences for their bad calls. One of the most notable instances of a bad call that would now be able to be amended under the new set of rules, was in 2010 when umpire Jim Joyce cost Detroit Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga a perfect game by blowing a call at first base that would have been the game's final out. Although in the ensuing days Joyce admitted he made the wrong call, and was clearly apologetic and remorseful about blowing it, the fact remained: technically speaking, Armando Galarraga did not throw a perfect game and would not have his name mentioned in the history books with those who have. 

I think it is safe to say, and can be agreed upon by most, that the expansion of instant replay in baseball is going to be a great thing for the game moving forward. By implementing this system it is the MLB's hope that teams will no longer be penalized by umpire gaffes and that the team who makes the most plays and deserves to win, does indeed win. 

That being said, there are still some questions that skeptics want answered. For instance, if the end goal is to get the call right, then why even have a challenge system? What if a manager finds himself out of challenges at the end of a close game when there is another disputable call? If Major League Baseball is truly concerned with making the right decision then why not do something similar to the NHL and have all questionable plays reviewed by the crew watching from its New York City headquarters without a managerial prompt. 

Secondly, many worry about replay increasing the length of the already time-consuming average game. With regard to this concern, it is baseball's stance that replay will not prolong the process, but may actually help shorten games. For example, a manager can go out and argue a call with an umpire for several minutes and have nothing change in the end, when a replay review would eliminate this confrontation and have a decision made in, according to the MLB, no longer than one minute and fifteen seconds. 

Another concern voiced by those who are not in favor of replay is what to do with the baserunner's on an overturned call? In cases such as this, baseball already has some rules in place that fall under the umbrella of the current replay rules with regard to home run reversals, but placing runners where an umpire believes they should be or would have been opens the door for many unwanted hypotheticals. 

Lastly, it will be difficult for MLB to police the instances in which managers are just stalling for time, trying to determine whether or not a play is worth the challenge. For example, a manager may go out on the field under the guise of discussing strategy with his pitcher when in reality there is somebody internally looking at replay advising him whether the play was ruled correctly or not. Many of these concerns are legitimate and baseball still needs to see how the new system works to alleviate any potential problems, but Schuerholz said he expected the plan to be adjusted and strengthened after seeing how next season unfolds. 

There are still questions to be answered and replay expansion in the MLB is just in the beginning of what will surely be many stages, but one thing is for sure: baseball, America's pastime, has finally begun modernizing the game like many of its counterparts began doing years ago -- and the vast majority agrees that now was time. For some guys, like Armando Galarraga, I'm sure this provides little, if any, solace, but here's to hoping the correct call is made, the deserving team prevails and mistakes like those are just another thing of the past. 

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