MLB Expands Instant Replay Usage & Rules

Bill Dubiel takes a look at MLB's recent decision to expand the rules and usage of instant replay and video reviews for umpires and calls made during baseball games.

Bill Dubiel - RotoBaller

mlb-baseball-news-instant-replay-expansionFor years, baseball intelligentsia have debated over whether or not instant replay should be instituted in baseball, and if so to what extent. Finally, Major League Baseball took a revolutionary step a few days ago, as its owners unanimously approved the expansion of instant replay.

Baseball is a game of inches, yet the onus has always been on umpires to make the right call in a split second. Unfortunately, umpires are human, and there have been many unfortunate instances of blown calls heavily influencing the outcome of games. Just ask Armando Galarraga and his near perfect game how important the “tie goes to the runner” rule is, for example. While umpires will always be a critical part of the game, this new chapter in the storied history of Major League Baseball may eliminate some of the more egregious human errors from the game.


New MLB Instant Replay Rules

The expanded system, which will be used in the 2014 MLB season, will allow for managers to call for the review of almost every aspect of the game (excluding balls and strikes). Managers will now receive one challenge per game, with the opportunity for a second should their first one prove successful.  After the 7th inning, and only after a manager has used up his challenges, umpires will make the decision on whether or not a play should be reviewed. There are some exceptions, most notably the “neighborhood rule”, regarding middle infielders turning double plays. There will be no change in how disputed home runs are settled, as the existing methods have proved effective since their inception. All instant replay reviews will be handled by crews at the MLB headquarters in New York, and relayed to the umpires in the stadiums.


Video Evidence

Prior to these rule changes, big league ballparks wouldn’t show close calls on scoreboards or video screens, obviously because of the unrest that would accompany a blown call. With expanded replay, all plays can now be shown in stadiums, regardless of whether or not they will be reviewed. While no screens will be available in dugouts, managers and coaches will be allowed to contact their team’s video specialist, who will have access to the same video that the New York-based officials will be reviewing.


The “Dramatic Miss”

MLB executive Tony La Russa summed up the reasoning for expanded replay on Thursday, saying, “We’re really (targeting) the dramatic miss… not all misses.” The general idea is to eliminate potentially game-deciding blown calls, not to nitpick every single safe/out call (hence the limit on challenges). To those who argue that the games, which have already been under scrutiny for being too long, will become even longer, MLB has an answer.  Braves president John Schuerholz, one of the leaders of the committee responsible for crafting the new system, claims that most reviews will be complete in approximately 60 seconds, with occasional reviews taking as long as 90 seconds.


Will It Work?

I have long been in the baseball purists’ camp, which means that I believe umpires and human error are a natural part of the game and are not to be trifled with. However, it has become more and more apparent that the ripples from a blown call can have major implications. In the modern, social media-dependent world, people end up talking more about blown calls and the fault of the umpires—mere mortals who, last I checked, do not have the power to slow down time. This sort of replay system will all but eliminate the big misses in MLB games, and ultimately improve the game. After all, athletic competitions are held to determine who is superior, and if that determination can fall victim to a blown call, why bother playing? I say it’s about time MLB, and I can’t wait to see this system in action.


Agree? Disagree? I wanna know. Tweet me @Roto_Dubs and let me have it.