A Study Guide to Instant Replay in Baseball

As we all look forward to the 2014 baseball season, one of the biggest changes to our beloved game is the introduction of instant replay.

The reviewable callswill exclude balls and strikes (see my last blog posting on umpire errors), check swings, foul tips, interference calls, and the infield fly rule. Also, the neighborhood call at second base on a double play will be excluded from review. Home runs and foul balls will be handled by umpires under the system that already exists, meaning managers will not have to challenge them. The vast majority of other calls are reviewable. Each manager will have at most two challenges a game. If the first challenge results in an overturned call he will earn a second challenge. From the seventh inning on if the manager had exhausted all his challenges, he can ask the umpire for a review but the umpire has the right to refuse or accept the request. In other words, the umpire can call for a review himself beginning in the seventh inning. Since the manager’s view from the dugout is usually poor, he must depend on assistants watching the game with video cameras in the clubhouse to advise him on whether he should challenge the ruling on the field. These assistants will have a direct line to the dugout to convey their findings. Unlike football’s instant replay, a manager will not have to reach into his pocket and throw a red flag onto the field. He will just walk out of the dugout and request his challenge. The manager must ask for this challenge before the next batter steps into the batter’s box and the pitcher places his foot on the pitching rubber. In case of a pitcher change he must make his challenge before the replacement pitcher crosses the warning track or the foul line. If the disputed call ends an inning the manager must immediately tell the umpire he is considering making a challenge which will give him 30 seconds to decide. While the manager is on the field the video crew will call a coach in the dugout and the coach will give a hand signal to the manager whether he should challenge the call. After a certain period of time while the manager and umpire are face to face, the umpire can tell the manager your time is up give me your decision.

So how will calls be reviewed? All reviews will be done inside the offices of MLB in New York. The heart of MLB’s new replay system is a 900-square-foot windowless room on the fifth floor of a former Nabisco cookie factory in New York. There will be 12 live camera feeds from each game showing every play from various angles. It will be staffed by rotating crews of umpires (a concession to get the approval of umpires), a permanent cast of technicians and a full-time director of replay When a manager or on-field umpire calls for a review, the crew chief will walk to a designated area behind home plate, put on a headset with a direct line to the replay room in New York and inform the replay umpire assigned to that game of the call being challenged. Reviews can’t be initiated by umpires in the replay room.

As with instant replay in football, the call on the field will stand unless there is clear evidence that it was wrong.

My opinion is any activity which eliminates wrong umpire decisions is good for baseball. Since we are beyond the stage of not making any changes to the original rules of baseball, forget the argument of the traditionalist that any change is automatically bad for baseball. Let’s look at the following example. On June 2, 2010, Armando Galarraga was denied being the 21st pitcher in MLB history to throw a perfect game when umpire Jim Joyce blew a call at first base. If we had instant replay that call would have been reversed. After the game Joyce was tearful and apologetic to Galarraga. Galarraga replied “We all can’t be perfect.” Don’t you think that Joyce would have preferred to have his call reversed?

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