How Radical MLB Instant Replay Changes Will Alter, Improve the Game
According to Bob Nightengale of USA Today, Major League Baseball has agreed to overhaul its instant replay system for the 2014 season, slated to include manager challenges and possible replays on everything besides the strike zone.
In the announcement, MLB commissioner Bud Selig called the landmark a "historic day" for the game of baseball.
While many assumed baseball would gravitate toward a replay style similar to the NHL—involving replay and reviews to take place back at MLB Advanced Media headquarters—the sport ultimately trended more toward the NFL in this sweeping change.
Get ready for manager challenges, baseball fans!
Managers will be afforded up to three challenges over the course of a game, with one coming within the first six innings. The other two will begin in the seventh and last through the end of the game. If a manager is successful with his challenge, he won't be charged with a review.
How will the new system change and improve the game starting in 2014? Here are three ways.
Closure on Controversial Calls
When an MLB umpire misses a big call, especially when a milestone or postseason game is on the line, the gaffe can live in infamy. From the immediate aftermath of the call to the potential impact of the mistake, replays can incessantly show the blunder over and over again.
Yet there's been little for fans and teams to do besides moan, groan and bemoan umpiring.
Now, all that will change.
Umpires are bound to miss calls, but it's imperative for the calls to be corrected in a timely manner before the game can be changed.
Starting in 2014, writers and talk radio will need a new source for fodder when it comes to breaking down the play-by-play of a baseball game.
The stench of a blown call won't linger past the review and reversal stage of the game. Over the years, the NFL has (mostly) perfected this concept. While the outcome of a game used to hinge on a call or two in the 1980s and '90s, the last decade-and-a-half has changed the sport, helping it become the most popular in the country.
Fans walk out of every NFL game with closure on the biggest calls. Next season, baseball fans can join them in a pursuit of a very realistic ideal considering the technology available in 2013.
Pressure off Umpires
It's impossible to be a Major League Baseball umpire in 2013.
While fans and media harp on every mistake and blown call—while instantly watching every replay from every possible angle in high definition—umpires are forced to make calls without the luxury of a backup plan or help.
Outside of home run calls, the league has not helped out umpires over the years, essentially expecting them to perform an outdated task.
There has been a perception around baseball circles that umpiring is worsening and blown calls, especially in big games, have been costing teams more and more in recent years.
Of course, that's ridiculous.
The number of blown calls today is probably no different than 20, 40 or 60 years ago. The difference? Fans now know in an instant if today's umpire was wrong. The camera can pan to him eight different times, while circling back to a replay and commentary from play-by-play announcers and color analysts.
Will removing the pressure of nailing every single close call help umpires achieve a higher rate of success?
It certainly can't hurt.
The game of baseball is ripe for strategy, second-guessing and decisions from the manager's seat.
Expanded instant replay will now add another layer to that part of the game, taking its cue from the NFL's approach to putting the replay process into the hands of each individual manager.
Outside of achieving the correct call, picking and choosing when and how to use particular challenges will be vital to the success of each team and manager.
Using an early challenge in the first inning, possibly changing the flow and direction of the game from the outset, would leave a manager without a challenge until the seventh inning.
Using late challenges in tie games may extend the contest to extra innings, but not allow for a close tag to be reviewed in the 13th or 14th inning of a huge game.
In the aftermath of NFL games, coaches are critiqued on when and how challenges are used almost as much as play-calling and playing-time decisions.
For MLB managers in 2014 and beyond, an extra layer to game-planning, along with pointed postgame questions, will now be part of the game.