17 August 2013

Why MLB's new replay system is a great start

Instant replay in Major League Baseball? It can't be, after all, this has never been a sport that has adapted itself to the times, considering this is just happening now. But hey, we'll take it, right? For the first time ever, there will be increased instant replay in baseball starting next season, pending approval from the owners, players and umpires. Managers will now have the ability to challenge most calls, similarly to the NFL in many ways, as they will get one challenge for the first six innings of a game with two challenges for the final three. Challenges will not carry over, and you will not lose challenges if you win them (meaning you could theoretically have more than one challenge provided that you get the first one correct). The home run reviews will be grandfathered in and not part of this proposal and balls and strikes are excluded.

While it may not be an ideal fix to some, I personally really like this proposal. And I promise, it's not just because I would love to see red flags on a baseball field.

Just to start off, it is important to state that there really was no perfect way to implement an increased instant replay system to keep everybody happy, it just was not possible. In fact, none of the other major leagues have a perfect replay system that is without fault of some sort.

But as we all know, it was getting to be ridiculous how much baseball needed more instant replay with a number of awful calls going down this year, and especially because there are still a number of crap umpires. And while the idea of challenge flags on a baseball diamond may make some recoil (although we don't know whether challenge flags would be utilized), I like this system featuring challenges by the manager.

Having every questionable call reviewed is simply an impracticable way to conduct instant replay, so now this gives managers another piece of strategy to work with. And putting the reviews into the hands of the manager was the right call in my mind as they should be in charge of what should be reviewed and considering that a correct call allows you to keep the challenge, it makes it more important to be smart with your challenges.

Another way that this system is better than its counterpart in the NFL is that reviews will be handled by a central review center in New York, rather than the umpire down on the field. That takes out the human element in making a review in a pressurized situation at the game and instead puts it in the hand of an unbiased observer off-site. Now this could add a little bit of time to the game, but would you rather take the time to get a call correct? Plus, the current replay system has not added any significant length to the games as is.

As I said, no system was going to be perfect and one qualm I have with it is grandfathering in the home run system, because that fully relies on the umpires deciding to allow a call to be reviewed, which is an issue with the most stubborn of umpures (see Hernandez, Angel). I also don't see why that system should be held to a different standard than other borderline and controversial calls.

Now there is a chance that we could see changes to this system, considering a number of folks have to agree to it. But ultimately, I think Major League Baseball is making a big step in the right direction.

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