There are plusses and minuses to the new expanded video review being used by Major League Baseball this season.
I’m not exactly sure how I feel about the new “expanded instant replay” system that is being unveiled this season by Major League Baseball. Although certain calls have been reviewable by technology for the past several years, there are additional situations that can now be analyzed by instant replay.
Under the new rules, each manager gets one challenge to use in the first six innings, and if the challenge is successful, he gets another one. (Maximum of two challenges per game.) From the seventh inning on, however, the umpires will decide if a play is to be reviewed.
The following types of plays are reviewable under the new protocol: homers, ground-rule doubles, fan interference, boundary calls, force plays, tag plays, fair/foul calls in the outfield, trapping calls in the outfield, batters hit by pitch, and various base-running scenarios.
Is the new replay protocol a plus for the game? There are arguments on both sides of the issue.
One thing I have against the new system is that, had it been in place in 1985, my beloved Royals would likely not have won the World Series. (Remember the infamous Denkinger call that led to the Royals winning rally in Game Six?)
Many people argue, “This will help us get the calls right.” I’m not so sure we WANT to have all the calls be right. Isn’t that part of the charm of baseball? The fallible, human element? Maybe that’s too old-school of a view in today’s world, where it seems to be a given that technology is the answer to everything.
All I know is, if there were expanded replay in 1985, the Royals would still be oh-fer the World Series. I’m not in favor of that.
That said, it does drive me crazy when a pitcher grooves the ball middle-middle and the umpire calls it a ball. Or he floats one 6 inches off the plate and the ump calls it a strike. The inconsistent strike zone is one of the “human elements” that I don’t exactly care for. But balls-and-strikes isn’t one of the things that can be reviewed under the new rules.
The umps seem to be very proprietary about balls-and-strikes. That’s something you’re not even allowed to argue about during a game. Nothing will get you tossed quicker than arguing ball- and –strikes. I suppose it’s the umps’ way of trying to make themselves still relevant to the ballgame.
I mean, less face it. 90% of the (non-balls and-strikes) calls in a baseball game can be made accurately by a near-sighted fan sitting in row ZZ while eating a hot dog. I think the umps recognize that if replay is allowed on balls-and-strikes, it will become a slippery-slope to where perhaps human umpires can be completely replaced by video umpiring. And no one wants to be put out of a job. So the umps are adamant about not giving up irrevocable control over balls-and –strikes.
So, in short, the one area I would like to see subjected to video review is not subject to review.
Some fear replay will further slow down the pace of games. With games routinely dragging on over three hours in recent years— with pitchers reading War and Peace in between offerings, and situational relief-pitcher match-ups resulting in a dozen pitching changes per 9 innings— there is definitely no need to further prolong the matches.
But of the first five reviews on Monday’s Opening Day, none took longer than 2 ½ minutes. There is a ‘replay central’ in New York that examines and rules upon all replay challenges. The system seemed to have worked on Monday. Some calls were upheld, some were overturned— just as one would expect.
The main point is, there was no ridiculous delay to the game. It didn’t take any longer for a video review than it takes for the pitching coach to leisurely stroll to the mound to waste time while a relief pitcher warms up in the bullpen. If you want to save time in the game, you’d do better eliminating the visit to the mound than the instant replay.
One thing that might change is the dynamic of arguing with the ump. The classic stomping, yelling, screaming, dirt-kicking manager may become a thing of the past. Instead of cavorting around like a maniac, now all a manager has to do is go out and ask for a replay review in a calm, rational manner. Of course, the type of people that attend hockey games merely to watch the players fight aren’t going to appreciate that probable change, but I will.
I suppose there is the possibility of technical failure. Each team will have replay monitors in the clubhouse to watch replays and alert the manager to possible review opportunities. I suppose it is possible that the visiting team’s (say) clubhouse video monitors may go out, forcing the home team to give up their access to same— much as occasionally happens with bullpen phones currently. (Bullpen phones? Really? In today’s world? I’m gonna go out on a limb and state my belief that at least one of the bullpen pitchers owns a cell phone. Do we really need bullpen phones? Anyhoo….)
In conclusion, at first glance, there don’t seem to be any glaringly valid objections to the expanded use of replay in MLB. I guess my basic objection to the new replay deal is, if we’re going to have it, let’s have it for calling balls-and-strikes, too.