Yesterday Major League Baseball approved new instant replay guidelines that will go into effect for the 2014 season for all teams, including the Baltimore Orioles. You can read the league’s press release by clicking here, however in effect managers will have one “challenge” per game. If any aspect of the play is overturned, the team will get a bonus challenge (mirroring the NFL). After the 7th inning, the umpires will have discretion to review plays on their own without the dugout having challenged the call. Again, you can read the rules as they’re stated if you wish, however with a few exceptions everything aside from balls and strikes will be reviewable.
I’m totally on board with instant replay in MLB. On the few occasions I’ve written about it throughout several off seasons, I’ve always stated my belief in reviewing close plays. In many things I’m somewhat of a baseball purist, however I recognize that instant replay goes against that grain. But I’ve always believe that “if you have the ammo, you may as well use it.” I personally feel that College Football handles instant replay the best in that every play is reviewed by the “eye in the sky.” One of the knocks on instant replay has always been that it would delay the games even more. First off, I’d rather the game last five minutes longer as opposed to it being decided by a bad call. I also recognize that the umpires are human, and they often have to make snap decisions that as I just said could decide games and even seasons. Why not give them the tools that they need to do their job better? However going back to the time issue, we should keep in mind that the act of managers going out on the field and arguing calls does in fact take time. Whatever time is lost by umpires reviewing plays will be saved in the manager not having to scream and yell on the field.
However there is one part of the new rule that concerns me. This might be arguing semantics and it might well be a moot issue in many cases. But the press release states that clubs will now have the right to show replays of all close plays on its ballpark scoreboard, regardless of whether the play is reviewed. For the most part, I think that’s a good change. I’ve heard numerous fans complain in various parks that they can’t get access to replays on close plays. However, the term will now have the right is an interesting choice of words. It implies that clubs also have the right not to show replays. In effect, it gives the home team full reign on when and where they want to show replays of anything.
I suppose my point here is that teams would have the option of not uniformly showing replays if they choose not to do so. Now in fairness, all teams will be able to review plays in the dugouts/clubhouses and so forth, and that does come across as a small and petty detail. But it’s only petty until somehow it costs a team something. According to the rule, coaches can still argue plays but at a certain point umpires are going to be instructed to bluntly ask if he wants to challenge the ruling. At that point, the coach will have to say yea or nay without going back into the dugout to confer with anyone. So play that scenario forward into an Orioles game on the road. What happens if Buck Showalter is forced into a snap decision on a replay, and suddenly the home team isn’t being so generous about showing the replay on diamondvision?
Again, this might sound like an almost flippant point; but it only remains as such until it happens. And for the record, this is not to say that the Orioles are a team that would in theory get “screwed over” on this type of thing; it could happen to an opponent at Camden Yards as easily as it could the O’s on the road. In the NFL all replay challenges come from the booth inside of two minutes to go in each half. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen a close play that in theory should be challenged by the home team replayed over and over and over on the jumbotrons, and then when the opposite is true to see no replay in sight. So to think this wouldn’t happen or that it couldn’t provide an unfair competitive advantage to teams is just not accurate.
To be fair, baseball said that they will be revising the system over three seasons. However it’ll be interesting to see if something along these lines ever comes up for review. It would probably take someone losing a huge game late in a season that costs them a playoff spot for it to even become an issue. But time will tell. Ultimately, kudos to MLB for instituting replay on a consistent basis.