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MLB Instant Replay: Expansion is needed, but current proposal is flawed

MLB proposes adding challenges and expanding instant replay, apparently ignoring pleas to keep the flow of the game and decrease the human element.

Let's not disrupt the flow of the game, guys
Let's not disrupt the flow of the game, guys
Scott Cunningham

Here's what I like about MLB's instant replay proposal: it expands instant replay, and they are using the main office in New York to review plays.

Here's what I don't like: everything else.

The benefits of instant replay are getting more calls right, and reducing controversy. The first one is addressed, so long as there is only one missed call during the first six innings. The latter is about to get a whole lot worse. The plan also fails to address the problems people have with instant replay.

Out of the four major issues that people have with instant replay, either for or against, this proposal addresses only one of those issues.

Adding manager challenges has several problems. First, the manager is further away from the action than the umpires as well as every single person watching the game on television. The manager is probably the person least likely to know whether a mistake was made, yet that is the person given the responsibility for challenging the play. Managers should be busy looking at match ups and planning the game, not determining whether an outfielder 200 feet away trapped a ball.

Second, this proposal disrupts the flow of the game. The manager has to decide whether to make a challenge, and then the play is reviewed in New York. On any questionable play, the pitcher might step off the mound a few times or the batter may delay his entry into the batter's box so that his manager has time to determine if a challenge is needed. If the umpire then calls for the batter to get in the box or the pitcher to take a pitch, that causes more interactions that distract from the game as opposed to enhancing it. In the NFL, there is a timeout penalty for making a challenge. In baseball, no such penalty exists, giving managers nothing to lose in those first six innings. Prepare for the sixth inning to be the longest in baseball when the manager must use his challenge or lose it.

This does not even address possible shenanigans (do people still use that word?) when managers can use a challenge to their advantage. Opposing pitcher in a groove? Use a challenge. Your reliever need more time to warm up? Use a challenge. Your pitcher needs to regroup? Use a challenge. Umps missed an obvious call in the fifth inning after blowing one in the first? Use a...wait, no they can't challenge then.

The manager challenge is apparently how MLB chose to limit the number of challenges in a game. Technology can do a much better job. I would not mind someone using Pitch f/x technology and immediately putting a ball or strike on the scoreboard. It would be faster than Tim McClelland, but I'm not asking for that here.

My Proposal

The following plays can be reviewed: traps, fair/foul, force-outs, and plays at home. Have the team in New York/Montana missile silo decide immediately if there is a close play. Give them one minute to review the play. If they can overturn it, good. If not, the play stands. This plan will make it slightly awkward on plays that end an inning, but these plays are the easiest and quickest to review. More calls would be correct, there would be very few delays, and the tradition of the game would be left intact.

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