Earlier this month, Major League Baseball announced that the 2014 season will include an expanded instant replay system which allows coaches to challenge three plays per game: one in the first six innings and two from the seventh inning until the end of play.
No longer will the instant replay system only apply to reviewing homeruns. The new system will allow virtually every play to be challenged other than the strike zone.
Fans everywhere are rejoicing. Finally their team’s manager will have a chance to fight back against those pesky umpires when they make terrible calls!
Consider me one man who is not rejoicing. Frankly, I think the MLB’s new system will only cause more headaches instead of alleviating them.
First of all, I understand that umpires do sometimes make bad calls. But are they really making so many bad calls that there’s a need to (potentially) challenge six each game? I mean, come on. I’ve seen some pretty awful calls, including one which cost the young Armando Galarraga a perfect game three years ago. I am my own armchair umpire, but even I’m not so naive as to think that there are six blown calls every game, or that there will ever be six blown calls in any game, for that matter.
Bear with me, because I’m about to get a bit technical.
Suppose you have bases loaded and one out. A tight pitch squeezes in and the call on the field is that it hit the batter’s hand, so it’s a dead ball. The play is challenged, and it turns out it actually hit the end of the bat before rolling into fair territory. Thus, instead of having a run scored in a hit-by-pitch situation, we actually have what could’ve been an easy double play to end the inning. So now what happens?
We can’t just assume it would’ve been a double play and call out two batters. We can’t score the runner on third because the batter wasn’t actually hit by the pitch. We can’t rule it a strike, because it was technically a fair ball. And you can’t simply call the batter out because he never tried to advance to first, because the ball was called dead on the field. Frankly, nobody would know what to do. The batting team would argue that the ball should be dead, and the defense would argue that they could’ve easily turned a double play. Who’s right?
The rulings will ultimately be decided by an officiating crew at the MLB headquarters in New York. As much as I fancy myself that armchair umpire, I cannot possibly imagine that I, or some sleepy-eyed guy on the East Coast calling a late game in San Francisco, could decide any better what to do in that situation. It would be best left in the unknown, and called a dead-ball, hit-by-pitch. Adding the replay only complicates things.
Personally, that possibility of human error is part of what gives baseball its allure. Aside from the occasional battle between batter and pitcher to set the pace, the game isn’t constantly being bogged down by time wasting. Adding in a seemingly pointless amount of challenges that could potentially blow the game just as badly as a miffed call makes baseball a little less satisfying. I say: stand back and let the guys play—we don’t need no stinkin’ replays!