Saturday, August 8, 2009

The Issue of Instant Replay

I almost wrote this post after the Twins' heartbreaking loss to the A's a few weeks ago, when Michael Cuddyer was called out at home trying to score on a potential game-tying run in the 9th inning. After last night's game full of controversial calls, though, I decided it was time for this post.

Baseball is living in the stone age. The technology is there for instant replay, and baseball should be using it to improve the product that it puts on the field. They finally made some concessions regarding home run calls, but that doesn't go far enough. It's unbelievably frustrating to see Cuddyer beat the tag at home, have the opposing pitcher admit it after the game, and see his foot hit the plate before the tag 1000 times on replay, and yet there's nothing anyone can do about it. In order to rectify situations like this, I have a plan that keeps the game moving while getting the calls right at the same time.

To start, an extra umpire would be necessary. Umpires, being the stubborn bunch that they are, would never agree to let any outsider make calls, but it is way too slow to have the umpires all have to gather and walk into the dugout just to review a play. Therefore, you add an extra member to the crew, and umpires have an extra rotation spot: replay booth. The replay booth umpire would be in charge of reviewing every single play. With the nature of baseball, he could easily determine before the next pitch whether the play needs to be further reviewed or not. If he feels that he needs to look at a couple replays, he can let the crew chief on the field know, and the game will be paused for a maximum of 30 seconds as he looks over the replays. If the reviewer cannot tell within that time whether the call should be overturned or not, then there is not sufficient evidence to overturn it.

This system would actually speed up the game. There would be no more lengthy childish arguments with managers; the managers would have no role in replay. It is inevitable that baseball will move towards these technological innovations, but at this point it's going as slowly as possible. Eventually balls and strikes will be called by a system such as Pitch f/x, but for now I'm not worried about that. This replay system would be used for plays on the bases, fair/foul calls, catch or trap, and home run calls.

Of course, there could be problems because of the continuous nature of baseball. If an outfielder makes a catch with a runner on first, but the reviewer determines that it was a trap, it would be difficult to say where the runner would have ended up. Therefore, at this point, it might be best to limit the use of replay to plays where there are no resulting actions to consider.

In no sense is this a perfect system, but it is a big improvement on what Major League Baseball has in place now: an antiquated system in which umpires are incapable of fault and are powerless to overturn calls even they might think are wrong. To be honest, I do not blame the umpires; some of these calls are very difficult to make. What is frustrating is to see them defend their calls even after realizing it's obviously wrong (like the tag play last night where even Granderson admitted that he was tagged) and rebuff efforts to improve the game with instant replay. It would be perfect for plays like the play at home that ended the game against the A's a few weeks ago. To be fair, it would not solve all controversial calls, including some from last night that sparked this post. The controversial balk calls were a matter of judgement and would not be cleared up by replay. The only reason I'm sure that Brendan Harris tagged Granderson is because Granderson admitted as much; the replay was not clear or conclusive. Nonetheless, this system would move baseball in the right direction, towards a goal I think we can all agree is a good one: accuracy in calling plays that are crucial to the game's outcome.


  1. I remember making a similar comment to you about instant replay after Cuddyer's infamous "out". I'm confused as to why baseball hasn't adopted instant replay as it seems to permeate every other sport in the industry.

    I don't think it is necessarily fair to only make calls on a play that has only one runner. However, I'm not really sure how you can reconcile this issue. Baseball is a dynamic game, like all sports, however there are too many factors that are unpredictable and it's ridiculous to restart a play to make the game more impartial and less up to the poor judgment of the umps.

    So how would that replay-specializing umpire be able to reconcile all of these issues to create a system that doesn't slow the game down but also lends hand to a game that doesn't lead to press conferences after the game with players expressing contempt for the ump while the opposition admits that they were tagged or didn't actually make that tag. However they decide to do it, I think it will be a markedly positive improvement over the way the game is called now.

    Worst comes to worst, just call up the 14-year-olds that do the little league games, i.e. me 5 years ago.

  2. wow i actually read this one but i was bored for the last 2 paragraphs..
    it soundded good but i got confused


Let us hear your thoughts!