Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
In a monumental move, Major League Baseball announced that they will expand instant replay for the upcoming 2014 season. According to Bud Selig, the owners voted unanimously to institute this replay expansion. The replay will allow managers an additional strategic option, as they will be allowed one challenge during the game, and if they use it successfully, they will be given an additional challenge.
The scope of instant replay has been increased significantly. What used to be only available on home run plays, will now be available on virtually every single possible play. Some of the more notable reviewable plays include, tag plays, force plays, trapped balls, fair/foul calls in the outfield, and batter hit by pitch plays.
It is obvious that baseball is attempting to eliminate plays like this:
The only notable omissions that I can see regarding the reviewable plays are at second base and fair/foul calls. MLB made it clear that one play that will not be reviewable will be whether or not the middle infielder touches second base turning a double play. It looks like they will stick with the “in the vicinity” call that they have been using for years. In reality, that fielder often doesn’t touch the base, or if they do, they occasionally don’t possess the baseball when it happens. My feeling is they want to protect the fielder making the turn, and are willing to give him leeway in order to keep him from getting hurt on a hard slide. Even so, it seems odd to not care about that call.
The other omission that I see being an issue is with a ground ball down the line. According to MLB, only fair/foul calls in the outfield will be reviewable, Since the bases are in the infield, I take this to mean that a ground ball that is close to the bag will not be reviewable. We all know that the rule states that where the ball passes the bag determines whether the ball is fair or foul. Sometimes that is a difficult call and I am surprised that it will not be reviewable. A double down the line can be a determining play in a tight game.
Other details surrounding the reviews include stadium replays and umpire challenges. Starting in 2014, stadiums will be allowed to show the instant replay of a close call, which presumably will aid the manager in his decision to challenge any play. This will also create more vitriol toward the umpires if it is obvious that they blew a call and the manager does not have any challenges left.
After the 7th inning, Crew chiefs will be able to instigate reviews, much like the NFL treats their two-minute warning review procedures. All replays will be reviewed at MLB headquarters in New York.
I understand the call for replays in baseball. I am by no means a purist who wants to keep human error in the game because I find it quaint and charming. I would much rather for the call to be right than to celebrate an umpire’s right to make a bad call. That being said, I felt that the umpiring changed significantly over the 2013 playoffs. I saw an umpire crew that routinely supported each other, and often huddled together to make the correct calls.
I feel like this replay situation could have been avoided had more umpires been proactive in looking to each other for help during difficult calls. The fact is, sometimes a plays perspective changes, and even an umpire that is in perfect position one moment, can be out of position the next. That doesn’t mean he is a bad umpire, just a matter of circumstance. Make sure you check with the other umpires who may have had a better view. We know it is a difficult job, and they are right far more often than they are wrong.
Nevertheless I still think it is a positive step for baseball. It should eliminate the absolutely terrible calls like the one seen above. With the limited number of challenges, that aspect shouldn’t slow the game down. Since MLB is viewing the replays, by the time the umpires get to the tunnel, they should have answer waiting for them. It won’t take any longer than David Ortiz currently does to un-velcro and re-velcro his batting gloves between each pitch.
Just because the actual reviews themselves won’t take much time, doesn’t mean that this whole process won’t lengthen games even more. It is obvious that MLB structured their replay similarly to the NFL’s model. The difference in the NFL, is often the offense is running up to the line of scrimmage to quickly snap the ball again to avoid giving the opposing teams a chance to view the replays, and if the offense wants to challenge, they have to decide before the play clock runs out.
In baseball, it will be very natural for the game to stop on every close play while everyone in the park stares at the video screen to see whether they would like to challenge or not. Pitchers and hitters are not currently on a timer. There is nothing to stop them from taking an extra second to adjust themselves or their equipment to view a replay. This is my main cause of concern, and if a clock is not included within a couple of years, I would be surprised.
What do you think about the replay expansion? Are you for it or against it? Let us know in the comments below!