Many people are calling the addition of instant replay in Major League Baseball long overdue. However, there is no place for replay, besides reviewing disputed home run calls.
The 2014 MLB season starts off with something that has never been done before: Allowing a manager to challenge the call of an umpire. This is not the NFL or the NHL. The Equinox Staff Writer, Ray Waldron, wrote a column in favor of the replay. He is correct on one thing: “Questionable home runs,” as he calls it, should still be reviewed. With the way new stadiums are being built, home run calls have been blown. As a result, umpires have missed these calls. That change is perfect. However, the others are not.
An MLB press release from January 2014 states that there are 13 types of reviewable plays. These include home runs, ground rule doubles, fan interference, stadium boundary calls (e.g., fielder into stands, ball into stands triggering dead ball), force plays (except the fielder touching of second base on a double play), tag plays (including steals and pickoffs), fair/foul in outfield, trap play in outfield, batter hit by pitch, timing plays (whether a runner scores before a third out), touching a base, passing runners, and record keeping (ball-strike count to a batter, outs, score and substitutions).
According to the release, all clubs approved the changes for expanded instant replay. Under the plan, managers would have one challenge per game. A manager would be awarded one more challenge if one gets any part correct or their first challenge correct. Also, after the seventh inning, if a team or manager was out of challenges, it would be up to the crew chief, or head umpire, to review the play at his own discretion.
The new plan will limit the amount of manager and umpire confrontations over blown or questionable calls. Also with the new plan, a manager may not be able to fire up his team after a questionable call. Many teams have gone on winning streaks after their manager got thrown out after a questionable call.
There will still be the occasional fights, like when Joe Girardi charged out of the dugout when Alex Rodriguez was hit by a Ryan Dempster pitch in August of 2013 after Dempster was not ejected by home plate umpire Brian O’Nora.
However, that is the least of the league’s worries about manager and umpire confrontations. One thing Waldron did not mention was the fact that baseball games take an average of two hours and 58 minutes, according to an ESPN article from June 2013. Game times have been on the rise for a number of years. With the addition of instant replay and reviews the games will only take longer amounts of time. It might not be a problem for the die-hard baseball fans and the fans with longer attention spans. It is going to affect younger and new fans.
According to that report, children are not falling in love with the national pastime anymore. A July 2013 ABC news article points to the decline in little league enrollment in the United States. If children are not playing little league, they are also not as likely to be watching the MLB. Also, when watching a game on television some ballparks are just empty.
It can, at times, take the NFL five minutes to review a call. This may occur similarly in the NHL when a goal is reviewed. Can you imagine how many angles will need to be looked at to determine whether or not a runner was tagged? Also, how many angles will need to be looked at for a close fan interference call?
The biggest problem with expanded replay is it eliminates the human element of the game. Over the years there have been blown calls. However, it is part of the game. Waldron points out the Armando Galarraga perfect game that was taken away from him from umpire Jim Joyce. Galarraga did lose his perfect game on what would have been the final play of the game. Jason Donald clearly grounded out three to one to the end the game. Afterward, both managers said it was part of the game. Galarraga also understood the human part of the game. Joyce felt horrible about what had happened. In addition, Joyce and Galarraga wrote a book together about what transpired that day. It was titled, Nobody’s Perfect: Two Men, One Call, and a Game for Baseball History.
Waldron said if it were this season, the perfect game would have been preserved. However, that is part of the game: The human element.
One thing that is a little extreme and something that MLB never did was fire any of the bad umpires. In any other profession if you do a bad job, you get fired. There have never really been any consequences for umpires on the field who make wrong or bad calls.
One call that should have had an umpire suspended for a little while, or even fired, is the call by umpire Jerry Meals on July 26, 2011. That is, in my opinion, by far one of the worst calls that has ever been called by an umpire. The game was between the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Atlanta Braves. In the 19th inning Pirates catcher Michael McKenry clearly tagged Braves infielder Julio Lugo a few feet in front of home plate. However, Meals ruled that McKenry did not tag Lugo and the Pirates lost the game. Video of the play clearly showed McKenry tagging Lugo not once to start on the leg, but also on the arm before Lugo got to plate.
The new system would let umpires get calls wrong and have the replay to save them. The only thing it will stop is the egos of umpires such as Angel Hernandez, C.B. Bucknor and Joe West, who have consistently been rated the worst umpires by the players.
Baseball has been a favorite pastime for America, and unfortunately extended replay is going to turn baseball into America’s modern day pastime.
Brian Clemmenson can be contacted at email@example.com