MLB Instant Replay: Debating the Proposed System

Sam EhrlichContributor INovember 7, 2007

IconFans have long clamored for Major League Baseball to adopt an instant replay system to help umpires make close calls.

Instant replay has been used in other major sports for years now—but the impact it could have on baseball would be unprecedented.

A ground ball down the line could be three runs or simply a "loud strike," or, as we saw in Game Three of the ALCS with Manny Ramirez at the plate, the difference between a one-run playoff lead and two.

Tuesday brought new life to the instant replay debate. In their annual Winter Meetings in Orlando, MLB GMs voted 25-5 to recommend a rule change allowing umpires to use instant replay to help determine home run calls.

Now the question is on the table: Is instant replay right for Major League Baseball?

Commissioner Bud Selig, like many of the older and admittedly conservative owners, is against using replay. But he does acknowledge that his office may have been too conservative in the past, causing "glacier-like movement," to quote executive VP Jimmie Lee Solomon.

Instant replay would settle difficult calls like Ramirez's ill-fated "single." And while the "human element" has been an integral and entertaining part of the game for 120 years, few would argue that having the correct calls would hurt baseball.

It certainly hasn't hurt the NFL, after all.  

However, the proposed MLB instant replay is not the NFL system. The system agreed upon by the GMs Tuesday is closer to the NHL system, whereby umpires would call a third party in the press box, who would then analyze the video and make the correction.

In the NFL system, the referees review the play and make the correctionor affirmationthemselves. This alternative is better than the proposed MLB system, as umpires on the field would have a better sense of what to look for than someone sitting up in the press box.

But does the proposal even go far enough?

Home run calls are hardly the only problem in the game today. Most of the qualms managers have with umpires pertain to strike zone or basepath calls. The proposed instant replay system wouldn't cover these decisions.

Another concern would be the stoppage of play. A whole new set of ground rules would have to be determined for balls down the line, or close plays at the plate with other runners advancing while the catcher appeals for a replay.

That said, getting the call right would be well worth any logistical headaches on the front end.

Is instant replay right for baseball?

I would think so.

But is the proposed system enough?

Probably not.

Time will tell whether the owners will do more—or even accept the current proposal.