I have fairly strong feelings towards the issue of instant replay in sports, and more specifically, baseball. If every fan watching the game, whether in the confines of their homes, at the local watering hole, or inmates at the closest prison is privy to instant replays for every pitch, let alone the plays that umpires miss, then the officiating crews governing each game should be afforded the same privilege.
After finally taking the plunge, albeit an act more closely resembling getting one's feet wet, into instant replay, Major League Baseball seems closer to expanding the use of this "newfound" technology. Fortunately for me, Jeff Passan, columnist at Yahoo Sports, took on the task of analyzing the latest news concerning MLB and instant replay.
"It's to get the thing right," [Joe] Torre said, and he was on the right track until he fell back into the usual trap. "But again, do we want to get every single thing right?"
"Yes. Yes! Yes, yes, yes!!!"
Passan's ferocity towards this issue mimics my own. It shouldn't take stories like that of Armando Galarraga, Jerry Meals, or even game 3 of the 1977 NLCS, to make fans, let alone MLB executives agree to incorporate a system designed to avoid those situations. These examples are best remembered because each missed call led to an unfair win or loss, but what about Johan Santana's recent no-hitter for the Mets? The missed call in the Mets' first ever no-hitter most likely would not have changed which team came out victorious, but it significantly affected history. I'm happy for Mets fans everywhere, they probably deserved the joy of a no-hitter, but amidst all that elation, the call was still wrong.
"Over the next few months, the details will work themselves out, whether it's giving managers challenge flags - or limiting use of such challenges to the seventh inning on to prevent copious replays. And they'll understand soon enough that limiting the scope of what plays to review only will lead to further expansion. Doing things piecemeal, as we've seen with MLB's ever-expanding drug program, is neither the most efficient nor effective way to pursue change."
Passan brings up another great point; when MLB fully integrates replay into game play, how should it fit into the rules of the game? The issue of extending the length of time of the average baseball game must be dealt with. Americans may love baseball, but we enjoy fast paced, violent, and dramatic sports more than anything else. In an article from 2012, Forbes Magazine contributor Steve Denning wrote that NFL games have only about 11 minutes of actual playing time. 11 minutes in comparison to the 60 that measure the length of every game. Football has little actual game play, but constricts itself via a game clock, while baseball has no fixed time limit, but has constant game play.
How can the MLB rules committee find a reasonable way to allow managers to challenge a call on the field without extending the length of non-playing time? Such a mission is feasible, and can be accomplished using a number of methods. Overall, let's remember one thing, that in the end no MLB game will be lengthened to an egregious extent. As Passan puts it:
"A strong replay plan will indeed review close plays, which in most cases will take minimal time - seconds as opposed to minutes. The effect on a baseball game may be 10 minutes, and that's only in the worst-case scenario."
Replay is coming soon to a theater near you, well not exactly, but to baseball for sure. As the great Sam Cooke said, "A change is gonna come." The days of umpires reviewing only whether a fly ball was a home run or not will be the days of yore, and all baseball fans, players, coaches, and even umpires will be happier for it.
Enough from me, let's hear from you. Given that the expansion of replay is at the doorstep of baseball, how should it be implemented? Should MLB consider a challenge system like that of the NFL, or leave it up to the discretion of the referees as in the NHL or NBA? Should the last third of the game be special, and what types of in-game calls should be off limits from review? Finally, should MLB run, walk, or jog into a complete implementation of replay?