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May 1, 2014

Is MLB instant replay right for baseball?

By Brendan Samsa

For almost 150 years the MLB (Major League Baseball) has operated its officiating system through the human element. Sometimes an umpire will miss a call on a key play and many times they will be spot on, but the human error had always been just part of the game.

This season the MLB has implemented baseball's first instant replay rules, allowing for coaches to challenge calls they feel the umpires may have got wrong. This addition to the rules adds a component to the game that has never before been seen.

As of April 20 — 15 games into the season — the replay system had been used 115 times, including twice for record keeping. Of the 113 calls challenged, 46 were overturned, 35 were confirmed and 32 stood. According to an article in The Wall Street Journal, at this rate the replay system will overturn some 426 incorrect calls this season.

Plenty of calls have been missed over the MLB's illustrious 145-year existence. That being said, we are only just around 30 games into this season and it’s not the calls that are corrected that are frustrating, it’s the calls that are reviewed and still called incorrectly.

You might ask yourself how a call can still be made wrong with an instant replay system. But it has happened already on April 12 during a game at Yankee Stadium between the Yankees and Red Sox. Although the replay conclusively showed the Yankee second baseman Dean Anna was out, umpires went to the replay booth and called Anna safe incorrectly.

Later the umpires would state that they did not have access to a camera angle that irrefutably showed the runner being tagged out.

After the game, Red Sox manager John Ferrel made some controversial statements about the replay system that would later land him a fine from the MLB, according to MLB executive vice president Joe Torre.

“It’s hard to have any faith in the new system,” said Ferrel, following the controversial call.

At this point in the season there have been mixed reviews from owners and managers alike. In the new systems infancy it’s hard for teams to advocate or oppose the system.

“I don’t expect any system to be perfect, so it’s no different than before instant replay,” said Hal Steinbrenner, owner of the New York Yankees in an interview with SI.com. 

In comparison to other major sports, baseball has always been more conservative, and for more than 140 years it has successfully operated without a need for video replay.

Calls are occasionally going to be missed — that’s what makes baseball nostalgic — and the human element has been what separates the game from others. In the end, with more than 400 projected overturned calls this season, it’s the few that they will still get wrong that anyone will remember.

Instant Replay rules as defined by MLB.com

By Joshua Hoover

Finally, Major League Baseball has joined the modern era by implementing an instant replay system. This change, though highly criticized, really isn’t as drastic as many of the nay-sayers seem to think.

Prior to this season, baseball already had an instant replay system, although it was much less extensive than it is now. Beginning in 2008, the umpires were allowed to consult instant replay to determine whether a home run was fair or foul or whether it cleared the wall based on the team’s ground rules.

In the 2014 season, we have expanded replay, which allows the coaches to challenge several different types of plays, including tag outs and catches.

The new system is being embraced by many players and managers, with last year’s American League Cy Young award winner Max Scherzer tweeting “Finally we have replay!! Umps have an impossible job and this should better the game. Plus replays on the scoreboard.”

Frankly, this is a system that has been needed in the MLB for quite some time, and it’s kind of shocking that it took this long for it to be implemented. One only has to look back a few years to see a major blown call that will live on in MLB history forever.

On June 10, 2010, Armando Galarraga was pitching for the Detroit Tigers against the Cleveland Indians. He had retired the previous 26 batters in a row, and was on the verge of a perfect game. Indians utility player Jason Donald stepped up to the plate and hit a weak ground ball to first baseman Miguel Cabrera, who tossed the ball to Galarraga, who was covering first base, for what should have been an easy out to end the game.
Instead, umpire Jim Joyce called Donald safe at first.

The replays clearly showed that Galarraga made the out before Donald touched the base, but due to their not being a way for the Tigers manager Jim Leyland to challenge the play, Donald remained at first base and Galarraga was robbed of his perfect game.

Similar plays happen multiple times a year, and with replays being shown in the stadium, it is quite easy for fans to pick up on the mistakes the umpires make. By allowing the managers to challenge plays that are blown, it will help improve the integrity of the game.
There will be flaws in the system, especially this year as everyone adjusts to the change, but this will be a very positive change for baseball in the long run, and one that it desperately needs after the steroid scandals.