Instant replay in baseball is long overdue, but it seems that the wait is finally over. Sure, there has been replay on disputed home runs for years, but that was as far as they were willing to take it. While other sports, specifically football, have leaned on replay heavily for years with great success, baseball has been stubborn to follow suit. Whether it was due to the traditions of the game, or worries about making games longer, or whatever else, no plan of action was ever put into place. For the 2014 season, however, that appears to be changing for the better.
While the details of the Major League Baseball replay system have not yet been announced (or finalized), there has been some hint to the system thanks to the Arizona Fall League. The Fall League used limited replay challenges as a test for next season. Managers were able to challenge calls they felt were incorrect, such as safe/out at first base, or a fly ball that might not have been caught on the dive. Balls and strikes are not challengeable. This system seems like a great solution because managers will be able to simply challenge the umpire and ask for review as opposed to dragging out the game with long-winded arguments that never go anywhere. Take the time that is used for the argument to replay the play, and the game can be up and running faster than before.
Avoiding the Disaster Call
The biggest area of improvement for baseball by implementing a challenge review system will be the avoidance of a major mistake changing the course of the game. For example, the Armando Galarraga near-perfect game from 2010 would not have been wasted on a bad call from umpire Jim Joyce. The 27th out of the game was clearly made at first base, but Joyce called the runner safe and the party was called off. Joyce is actually one of the best umpires in the game, but he made a mistake. Unfortunately for him and Galarraga, it happened at the worst possible time. If replay was in place at that time, the call would have been overturned, and the perfect game would be on the record books for all of history. This rule change can’t go back and fix that mistake, but it can prevent it from happening again.
Time to Move Forward
There are certainly ‘traditional’ baseball fans who don’t want to see expanded instant replay, but they are probably in the minority. Most fans just want a fair game with correct calls, and this is a major step in that direction. For baseball to continue its massive growth in popularity, it will need to stay on top of new technology and use it to improve the product on the field. For fans, players, coaches, and even umpires themselves, having more access to instant replay is a great thing. It will be exciting to see how it is put into use and what new chapters will be written in baseball history with the help of the replay challenge system.