Ready or not, here comes instant replay for Major League Baseball.
Umpires will be allowed to check video on home run calls starting Thursday after Major League Baseball, guardian of America’s most traditional sport, reversed its decades-long opposition to instant replay.
“Like everything else in life, there are times that you have to make an adjustment,” baseball commissioner Bud Selig said following Tuesday’s announcement. “My opposition to unlimited instant replay is still very much in play. I really think that the game has prospered for well over a century now doing things the way we did it.”
The 74-year-old Selig, who described himself as “old fashioned” and an admirer of baseball’s “human element,” softened his opposition following a rash of blown calls this year.
For now, video will be used only on so-called “boundary calls,” such as determining whether fly balls went over the fence, whether potential home runs were fair or foul and whether there was fan interference on potential home runs.
“Any time you try to change something in baseball, it’s both emotional and difficult,” Selig said. “There’s been some concern that, well, if you start here, look what it’s going to lead to. Not as long as I’m the commissioner.”
I think this usage of replay is appropriate. I’m more open to the idea of expanding it than I was at first, but there’s no rush. If we can see that this works well, and we can figure out a way to restore equity in situations where a call would need to be overturned – something that’s easier to do in a more discrete game like football – then we can consider other ways to use this. For now, let’s see what this system can do.
Video from available broadcast feeds — not every team televises every game — will be collected at the office of Major League Baseball Advanced Media in New York, where it will be monitored by a technician and either an umpire supervisor or a retired umpire. If the crew chief at a game decides replay needs to be checked, umpires will leave the field, technicians at MLBAM will show umpires the video and the crew chief will make the call, overturning the original decision only if there is “clear and convincing evidence.”
Leaving the dugout to argue a call following a replay will result in an automatic ejection. Replays of the boundary calls will not be shown on stadium video boards, MLB executive vice president for baseball operations Jimmie Lee Solomon said.
MLB said replay delays will be offset by fewer arguments.
This guy thinks that the fans at the games should be able to see the same replays as everyone else. I don’t think it’s that big a deal, but I can’t argue that more transparency is better than less.
Let’s all try to keep a sense of proportion about this. The situation for which replay might be used is so limited it might not even come up during the rest of the season. The amount of time spent bitching and moaning and appealing to tradition and the majesty of human error will be orders of magnitude greater than the amount of time games are delayed by replay review. Basically, I think this guy has it right. This is not a bad thing. It may not be perfect, and we may ultimately decide it’s not worth it, but it’s not bad to give it a try.
UPDATE: Joe Sheehan is blunt:
Baseball games should be decided by the players, not by low-paid middle-management functionaries of dubious competence and excessive self-worth.
Yeah. If we’re going to talk about the “human factor”, let’s let that be about the players, and not the arbiters.