Baseball is often a game that is slow to embrace change.
This can at times be both charming, as it harkens to a simpler time, as well as being frustrating to some when the old ways can shift the outcomes of games through blown calls that seem obvious to everyone other than the umpires making the calls.
This is not to say that umpires are to be blamed for all blown calls. They are often times having to make a split second decision between safe and out without the benefit of the high definition slow motion angles that the viewers at home have.
That is also why a close call is never replayed in the ballpark. This is done to avoid further inciting fans who feel that a call was not made the way it should be.
Many sports already use replay to help with questionable calls. The NFL has replay on all scoring plays in addition to coach’s challenges on non-scoring plays.
A few years back Major League Baseball dipped their toes into the replay pool by allowing replay on whether certain balls that bounced back into the playing field were home runs.
When it was announced that home runs were now able to be reviewed there were those that were happy and felt that baseball was finally catching up with the times and others who thought that an already long game would get even longer through the inclusion of replay where the umpiring crew left the field to view a television monitor.
Both of those sides of the argument were given something else to cheer and/or jeer Thursday when it was announced that Major League Baseball will implement instant replay on virtually every play but the strike zone starting next season. And much like the NFL manager’s will be allowed up to three challenges per game.
While announcing the change Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig called the announcement “a historic day” for baseball.
While still giving the home plate umpire the final word on balls and strikes, mangers will be able to challenge up to three calls during a game.
The challenges will be broken down with one available during the first six innings, and two beginning in the seventh inning. There will be no additional challenges given for extra-inning games.
After a manager has used his allotment of challenges, an umpire crew can make a review of its own only to determine home-run calls.
The ruling on a challenge will be determined by umpires stationed in a central command center in New York and will not be determined by the on-field umpiring crew.
Time will tell whether the roll out of the type of instant replay that certain fans have wanted will improve the quality of the game or will just add another delay tactic for managers to use.
There have certainly been some high profile examples of umpires making calls that have altered the outcome of a game. There was a blown call on a perfect game attempt a few years back as well as some other examples where human error led to a different outcome.
Personally I have always felt that an equal number of bad calls go against each team so that in the end they all sort of even out. But, I can certainly see where replay could be beneficial to help ensure the quality of the game and to avoid post-game press conference by umpires who after further review admit they should have made a different call.
While the reply roll out should help clear up game altering calls, I would much rather see a system that implemented a universal strike zone across all 30 Ballparks than a system that looked at whether a runner beat a tag at second base or not.
Pitch tracking software for years has shown subtle differences in how umpires call balls and strikes despite a defined strike zone in the rule book.
It seems that maintaining control at the plate was one victory that the umpires were able to hang on to as it has been a point of debate for many years now. It just seems like Major League Baseball would want to enforce the same strike zone since getting called out on a ball that was called a strike seems to happen far more than a questionable tag out.
I remain hopeful that the next major change in replay rules includes the universal strike zone. Until then I guess we will just have to see how the managers manage their challenges and whether they will be given a red challenge flag to throw on the field like their NFL counterparts or will just run out of the dugout when they want a challenge.
Either way starting next year the game of baseball will be forever changed. Time will tell if it will be remembered as a good change or a bad change.
Now if you’ll excuse me, upon further review, I have a snack to go make before finding a game to watch.
Copyright 2013 R. Anderson