A new era in baseball is upon us after the owners today unanimously approved expansion of instant replay at their meetings in Arizona. Considering the constant criticism of umpiring today, I’m all for this decision.
It might have to be modified somewhat in the number of challenges allowed to managers, or even if the decision to review might come from an umpire in the replay center, similar to how replays are automatically reviewed in the NFL after scoring plays and turnovers.
Currently managers are allowed only one challenge through the first six innings. After that, the umpires would initiate the challenges. If the umpires can challenge after the seventh inning, then why not before then?
Of all sports, baseball might be the most conducive to replay because much of the action is located at fixed positions, such as the bases and plate, the outfield fences and foul lines.
In addition to home runs, replay will be applied to:
• Ground-rule double
• Fan interference
• Stadium boundary calls
• Force play*
• Tag play
• Fair/foul in outfield only
• Trap play in outfield only
• Batter hit by pitch
• Timing play
• Touching a base (requires appeal)
• Passing runners
• Record keeping
What won’t be reviewable is the “neighborhood plays’’ at second base, which really would be the easiest to review.
MLB executive and former manager Tony LaRussa, who helped design the new system, estimated up to 90 percent of potential calls are reviewable.
“We’re really [targeting] the dramatic miss,’’ La Russa said, “not all misses.’’
One of the potential flaws in this system is managers could use challenges as a way to stall for time to allow a reliever to get ready in the bullpen. However, managers have found ways to stall for over 100 years, so perhaps that’s not such a big deal in the long run.
What I’m not crazy about is limiting the number of challenges, because after all, there could be more than one play that is close enough to be reviewed.
Given that, I wouldn’t mind having the umpire crew in the replay center in New York, buzzing the crew chief to say a play is under review.
However, this is better than what we’ve had in recent years.
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