Instant Replay In The MLB: The Dos and Don'ts

MCorrespondent IAugust 24, 2008

It seems certain that in the near future Major League Baseball will be graced by the presence of instant replay.  The MLB signed an agreement with the World Umpires Association last Wednesday to institute instant replay before the end of the regular season.  Umpires will have full authority in employing instant replay and will ultimately make the final decisions.  What are the limits of using this system and how can it be smoothly integrated into ball games, especially in the middle of the season?

Do limit use to boundary calls during games.  Any ball that hits high up on the wall or gets caught by a fan in the front row is questionable.  Balls hopping over first or third base or anything that gets near the foul pole should also be examined.  Instant replay should be used in all such cases.  The agreement signed by the MLB and WUA includes limiting its use to boundary calls.

Don't use it for calls at bases.  Home runs and foul balls are as far as instant replay should go when the outcome of the game may be affected.

Do review video from calls at bases to assess the competency of umpires.  Bad calls often slow the game down dramatically and cause players, coaches and managers to be ejected.  This may be a way to improve the officiating out on the field.

Don't undermine the authority of the officials.  The final call should always belong to the officials, not the video tape.  Its use should be similar to the NFL, where conclusive evidence must be shown to overturn the official ruling.

Do limit the number of people that can initiate reviews.  No one representing either team should be able to "challenge" a call.  Only umpires should be allowed to determine if a review is necessary.  Furthermore, only a single official should be allowed to call for instant replay.  The same official that assigns hits and errors should be left with the task.

Don't implement it before the end of the season.  Though using instant replay as soon as possible seems to be the best idea, it is a hurried effort.  Unexpected problems may arise with using instant replay.  These factors may include the length of the game and the quality of the system.  A bad review system could potentially ruin the season.  These issues will be much easier to deal with come spring training.

It is clear that instant replay in the MLB is a must in today's world.  But how can we do it and how far should it be taken?  I've organized my thoughts above and encourage everyone to comment with their own thoughts.