After enduring a truly brutal week of umpiring, Major League Baseball intends to expand the use of instant replay in time for the 2014 season, according to the Associated Press (h/t ESPN.com).
"My opinion has evolved," Commissioner Bud Selig said Thursday, acknowledging that there was a time when the sport prided itself on "the human element." Remember that for years, as the other major sports embraced technology as a means to confirm and refute pivotal calls, this sport continued to rely on four pairs of middle-aged eyes.
Selig consented to the first regular-season reviews in 2008, pertaining to potential home runs (whether they were fair/foul, over the wall/in play or interfered with). Then last season, he announced that trapped balls and "bullets" down either baseline would be made reviewable in the near future.
This blueprint recommends even more usage of instant replay and a different review process. It borrows elements from the systems that exist in other major sports and blends them with original ideas that suit baseball's design and pace.
The purpose, ultimately, is to ensure that controversial calls can be corrected quickly. That way, the Angel Hernandezes and Jim Joyces of the world don't become household names.
Foul-line television screens
Currently, umpires disappear into the bowels of a ballpark to review any disputed call. They re-emerge minutes later after seeing various replays and reaching a consensus.
This is both time-consuming and overly dramatic.
The screens that the umps use should have greater proximity to their field positions to expedite the process. And by keeping them visible to the players, coaches and crowd (a la the NBA system), we learn the verdict immediately.
During game action, the television(s) would stay protected behind the fence on the first-base line. Stadium personnel would simply uncover them when necessary and provide ample security to protect the umps from rowdy fans.
Automatic reviews of all run-scoring plays
The NFL rule change made in 2011, according to NESN, makes just as much sense on the diamond, where usually, no more than a handful of plays lead directly to scoring.
Have the umpires jog over to the nearby review station. They'll make sure the runner touched home plate, beat the tag/force, etc.
Regardless of what stage a game might be in or the disparity on the scoreboard, it's important to verify whether or not a run was scored and do so without making managers trek out onto the field to complain.
"Replay chief" on site
Craig Calcaterra of HardballTalk advocates assigning a fifth trained official to each regular-season game in addition to the on-field quartet. This person would oversee everything from a private booth with replays readily available.
Now back to the specifics of this proposal.
Through an IFB device, the replay chief should communicate a conclusion and rationale to the crew chief. After watching for themselves, the umps can discuss. However, unless there is unanimous opposition to his/her decision, they have to enforce it.
This is another time-saving modification because the replay chief can get a head start on the review process and work from a more secure location.
Challenging safe/out calls
Bleacher Report's own Zachary D. Rymer explored this in greater depth this past January, and his explanation is quite convincing.
He wants to allow managers one challenge during the first nine innings because "they'd therefore have to be strategic with it. They'd have to pick their battles." Rymer and I also agree that a second challenge should be granted to each in extra innings.
But we diverge when it comes to other gimmicks. This blueprint doesn't incorporate his rule that someone who "makes a challenge in a pressure situation and wins" should get another challenge for the eighth and ninth innings.
Rather, how about a rule to empower the poor umps so that their influence doesn't disappear entirely? They should reserve the right to strip a team of its challenging ability for the remainder of a game in case of a managerial ejection. This deters skippers from belittling/cussing out umpires about balls and strikes and other judgement calls.