Much to my chagrin, it looks like baseball is going to expand the use of instant replay beginning next season.
Commissioner Bud Selig called it a historic moment Thursday as he announced the league’s plan after two days of meetings with representatives from all 30 teams. Here is how the new proposed replay system would work.
The changes create a system of manager challenges that would allow them to invoke replay review of calls on the field. The manager would make his challenge with the crew chief on the field or the home plate umpire. All reviews will be conducted by a crew in MLB headquarters in New York City, which will make a final ruling.
Managers will get one challenge through the first six innings, and two challenges from the seventh inning until the completion of the game. Unused challenges from the first six innings will not carry over. A manager who is successful in his challenge will maintain it.
The current system for reviews of home runs will be maintained.
The new rules, if approved, are expected to be implemented for the 2014 playoffs. Afterward, baseball would look at what worked and didn’t to make further adjustments for 2015.
It’s no secret that I am not a fan of instant replay in baseball. There are several reasons for that.
First, baseball is a traditional game. The most traditional of them all. It’s America’s pastime. Our first professional sport. Our most enduring.
The game has been played the same way since it’s inception. Bat, ball, glove. See ball, hit ball, catch ball, throw ball. There have been no technological advances to how the game is played. There shouldn’t be technological advances into how the game is played – including how it’s called.
Second, baseball is slow paced enough. Often criticized by fans today as “boring” because of a perceived lack of action (which is ridiculous), allowing for multiple manager challenges – and unlimited if successful – will only widen the disconnect between the game and young fans craving a rush of athletic excitement.
Third, replay doesn’t always get it right, either. The whole intent of expansion is to make sure plays on the field are gotten right. Much of the push for more use of replay has been fueled by the media’s enhanced coverage and criticism over every little incorrect call, no matter how insignificant in the outcome of a given game or a team’s season. Mistakes are a fact of human life, and until you replace all umpires with robots, there will always be an element of human error, regardless of how much technology is being used to aid in calling a game.
We see missed calls in the NFL every Sunday that are not overturned by replay. The same will be true in baseball. And if there are still blown calls, there is no benefit to counter the detriment caused by slowing the game down and tarnishing it’s appeal through unnecessary modernization.
The proposed changes still must be approved by 75% of MLB owners before they can officially be implemented. A vote is expected to be had in November. They will probably pass unanimously.
The game will go on, even with replay. Umpires will begrudgingly accept and learn to use the new tool. Managers will learn new strategy created by the challenge system. The media will step down from it’s soap box, and fans probably won’t notice.
Selig called it a historic moment. For me, it’s kind of a sad day. Because the game of baseball I grew up watching will never be the same. Replay destroys some of the charm. The human element is as much a staple of the game as the bunt or the home run.
I only hope baseball has the sense to stop the expansion at some point.