Re-Play Ball: Bring Instant Replay to MLB!

Peter KuoContributor IMay 25, 2008

Major League Baseball has been thinking about adding instant replay to the game. The NFL already has instant replay, so why doesn’t MLB?

Some say instant replay should only be utilized for home run balls. However, for the sake of the game, and the sanity of the fans, instant replay should be made available for every play. However, this will require some changes, both in the rulebook and in the mind sets of fans.

The NFL has a challenge system where each team gets two challenges in a game. Perhaps baseball should take a page out of the NFL rulebook and install a similar rule, perhaps giving each team one or two challenges a game.

The biggest hurdle with making instant replay available for every play is the pace of the game. Football has clearly defined plays, where the play starts when players line up and the play ends when the referee blows the whistle. Baseball experiences more continuous play.

However, this problem has a remedy. Once an umpire makes a call, players should just continue playing. For example, a ball goes down the line, and he thinks the ball is foul, but the umpire calls it fair. The player should play it like it was a fair ball. Once the “play” is over, meaning nothing else can be done, the manager could come out and challenge.

Imagine a more complicated play now. Same developments as above, the ball gets hit into left field, but the umpire calls it foul. The players on both teams should just play the ball as though it was a fair ball. The batter would try and advance as far as he can, and the defense should get the ball back into the infield as fast as possible.

The challenge rule only works when both teams play a continuous game. Once the challenge rule gets implemented, both teams have no choice but to play on as though the play can be reversed.

How could this be bad? If the manager chooses not to challenge the play, then the at bat would continue. But if the manager does challenge, and the play is reversed and the ball is ruled fair, then the resulting play would stand. If the original call stands, then the at bat would continue, and everything would go back to where they were before the play.

Some people argue that instant replay will slow down the game. Really? Fans would rather watch umpires gather around in a circle talking about what they saw for five minutes, then watch managers come out and argue that call to no avail only to get ejected? I know I don’t. Instead of time spent on talking about what might have happened, how about giving umpires the tool of instant replay.

Teams should each get a limited amount of challenges in a game. Perhaps only managers should be given the right to challenge. With only a couple challenges a game, hopefully managers will be selective in choosing which plays to challenge.

For example, challenging whether or not a baserunner was tagged out in a stolen base attempt is probably not as important as challenging a home run ball. With teams given the power to challenge a call, there should be no more need for managers and players to come out and argue with the umpire.

Playing by the current rules, managers and players argue to no avail. Not only does this waste time, but it does nothing to change the outcome of the play, most of the time. With a rule change, not only will arguments be eliminated, but more plays would be called correctly. If a player or manager feels like a call should be reversed, they should challenge it. Otherwise, sit down. Any other form of argument other than a challenge should result in automatic ejection, because that would be a delay of game.

Instant replay should just be relegated to a “tool” umpires can use on the field. Some calls should not be subject to review, just as in the NFL some plays cannot be reviewed. For example, umpires would still be responsible for pitches, since that would be hard if not impossible to review. Umpires need to call each play as though no one will challenge it. Instant replay should be used to correct mistakes at the discretion of the teams, not to make calls.

In the NFL, even instant replay can show inconclusive evidence to overturn the call. Sometimes calls are blown even after being reviewed. Instant replay does not guarantee perfection. However, neither does not having instant replay. Instant replay merely instills a sense of confidence in fans and players that most calls will be correctly made. Umpires are people too, and I’m willing to settle for “close to perfect” in a game that is played by people and called by people.