January 16, 2014

MLB Gets It Right, Making Sure the Umpires Can't Get It Wrong

This afternoon, Major League Baseball rolled out sweeping changes to the way instant replay will be utilized this upcoming season.  The simple home run call has now been replaced by this list of reviewable plays:

1) Home run
2) Ground rule double
3) Fan interference
4) Stadium boundaries calls (ie: fielder into stands, ball into stands triggering dead ball)
5) Force play (exact the fielder touching second base on a double play)
6) Tag play (including steals and pickoffs)
7) Fair/Foul in outfield only
8) Trap play in outfield only
9) Batter hit by pitch
10) Timing play (did runner score before the third out)
11) Touching a base (requires appeal)
12) Passing runners
13) Record keeping (balls and strikes, outs, score, substitutions

An instant replay review can be initiated one of two ways.  The crew chief can initiate a review on their own after the seventh inning, or it can be done by either team's manager at any point in the game.  Each manager will start the game with one challenge.  If they win the challenge, they are awarded a second.  However, no manager will receive more than two challenges in a game.  Once initiated the review will be determined by an official at an MLB Replay Command Center that will be in New York City, thus relieving the umpires of the responsibility.

Finally, all replays will now be available on the screens within the stadium.  As a result, its possible that teams will be able to view the replay before initiating a challenge.  Replays will be available for both the home and away teams to make sure the new rules are implemented as fairly as possible.


I love it!  I love the fact that MLB has chosen to take some of the best aspects of replay in other sports and implement them into their own.  Although I wish there were challenge flags for the theatrics of it, the fact that a manager can challenge a call will be much more efficient than simply getting tossed from the game with no action taken.  I especially enjoy the idea of a command center.  I wouldn't put it past a few of these attention seeking umpires to uphold a bad call to save face.  Letting someone with no investment in the call make the decision is the best route.

The only potential downfall will be the speed with which all of this is accomplished.  MLB cannot allow this process to take 5-10 minutes, as pitcher will need to stay loose and in general the pace of play is already too slow for some fans.  However, most importantly these rules will do a lot to ensure that the result of the game is fair and accurate.  Love it!

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