Thursday, July 28, 2011

My Suggestion for Instant Replay in Baseball

If you follow me on twitter, I'm sure I don't need to explain what prompted me to write this post. Early Wednesday morning myself and other Pirates fans were fuming over this play at the plate where umpire Jerry Meals called Juilo Lugo safe. MLB and Joe Torre admitted yesterday that Meals blew the call, but offered up no solution to keep things like this from happening again saying "most in the game recognize that the human element always will be part of baseball and instant replay can never replace all judgment calls by umpires".

Instant replay is already a part of baseball. It was implemented on August 28, 2008 to judge home run calls. They judge whether the ball is fair or foul, whether it actually left the playing field, and/or whether the ball was subject to spectator interference. It's up to the crew chief to determine if a play will be reviewed.

The fact that MLB only thinks that home runs should be reviewed is asinine to me. After the game Wednesday morning, I had a discussion with a coworker about how instant replay could be improved and I came up with some suggestions.

1. All replay would go to MLB offices - This is exactly what the NHL does. NHL officials review the play and make the final call. Officials aren't thrown under the bus and forced to make tearful apologies when they will be forever remembered for blowing a call. Since MLB would be held accountable for upholding or reversing calls, they can easily release statements regarding the play if needed.

2. Any play at the plate is reviewable - Tim Kurjikan said yesterday on ESPN that the only way instant replay happens is if it effects a playoff game or a playoff chance. Have we already forgotten this game? Another extra innings game involving a Clint Hurdle coached team and a blown call at the plate.

Making plays at the plate reviewable would determine whether or not a player touched home plate and/or a tag was made. How this is not already a rule seems dumb to me. If home runs are deemed worthy, why not scoring plays?

Under this rule, there would not be a need for a coach to challenge the ruling. The crew chief would decide if the play should be reviewed or not. There would need to be clear, undisputable evidence to overturn the call.

3. Coaches can challenge 1 play on the bases a game - Unlike rule #2, a coach can challenge a safe or out call at 1st, 2nd, or 3rd. Under this suggestion, a coach gets 1 per game. I think this would be an acceptable amount under a trial basis. Perhaps in the future it could increase. I think it also gets murky when you get into extra innings games. This could also be discussed after a trial period, but if one of the concerns is slowing down the game, 1 challenge a game seems appropriate.

Under this rule a coach can challenge whether a runner was safe or out. It could also help determine if runners tagged up. It could also potentially cut down on plays at second base where a player is given an entire area code to make the turn on a double play ball.

I don't think that anything should change with balls and strikes and I would rather not make fair/foul calls down the line reviewable. Pretty much every team sport gives their referees some sort of judgement call. You don't see most penalties reviewed in hockey or football. There are a few that are easily reviewable but holding, offsides, etc should be up to the officials. I think that's where these two should lie. They get fair/foul calls right 99% of the time anyway.

Where I think it's debateable is catches, especially if it causes/prevents runs to score. I think if this version of instant replay is done on a trial basis it could be reviewed then or in the future. At the moment, I'm more concerned with calls on the bases. I do think it could expand easily to include catches as well.

If MLB's only concern with instant replay is about slowing the game down, rather then getting calls right, then it makes me less of a fan. The "human element" is always going to be part of any sport, but part of the "human element" is knowing when to right the wrongs. Instant replay should be a part of baseball.

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