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MLB Instant Replay System: They're Doing It Wrong

MLB is on the verge on implementing an instant replay system this season that is flashy and dated. The system should be more efficient and invisible.


Expanded instant replay is a real possibility this season. The umpires have agreed to it, the owners have agreed to it and the players union is working through the proposed system.

I gotta say I'm not entirely impressed with how it's being implemented. First, the system baseball is using is a system that was implemented in the NFL back in 1999, with coach's challenges. Each coach, or manager in baseball's case, will get one challenge per game. If the manager wins the challenge he can challenge again later in the game. That is until the seventh inning when the umpire crew chief determines what gets challenged and what doesn't get challenged. The people reviewing the challenged play will be located in a command center based in New York.

The number of plays that can be challenged have been increased. One of the few areas off limits is the umpire's strike zone. Cause you know we really don't have a way to see if an umpire is making the right balls and strikes call or not. It's not like MLB could give umpires a device that would tell them what's a ball and what's a strike and they make a call from that. But that's another article.

Anyway, the actual instant replay as it is proposed isn't exactly awful, it's just dated. There are better ways to do instant replay like the NHL or like the SEC utilizes in college football. The NHL doesn't have the problem that MLB has, as it only has to review whether a goal is scored or not, but the system in place is easy and simplistic. A goal is scored and if there is any question the video goal judge reviews the goal and says goal or not goal. Boom. Done. Invisible. Which is what an instant replay should be, invisible. Otherwise it becomes part of the story of the games, like it sometimes does in the NFL.

Which is why I love the instant replay implementation for the SEC. The refs on the field run around with headsets on and when there is a close play a video review official reviews the play and then makes the call to the ref on the field wearing the headset. The ref makes the call and moves on. Boom. Done. Invisible. During college football season we do not see stories about how this instant replay call affected this game in that way and blah blah blah. It hardly gets mentioned. Now it does have its'controversies but usually those entail poor angles and insufficient evidence which most viewing individuals can understand.

This MLB implementation on the other hand is not going to be invisible. Unless there is some stipulation that after the seventh inning , a manager can't argue or request a replay, managers are still going to come out of the dugout to argue a call. Even then managers might still come out of the dugout because they've been doing it for over 100 years.

I also think this system takes the tool, instant replay, out of their hands. Adding a video umpire and then leaving it up to the manager to get that video umpire engaged is clunky and under-utilizes this fantastic new tool. Why not let the umpires constantly communicate with each other and ask for help when they need help, not when the manager thinks they need help. Navy Seals communicate with hand signals and radios when necessary and their job is to get the call right and be invisible. There are three teams on the field: the home team; the away team; and the umpires. The umpires should be invisible and the instant replay system should also be as invisible as possible.

Implementing replay is a good thing. First and foremost the call needs to be made and instant replay helps with that, but there's a flashy way to do it and an invisible way to do it. MLB has chosen the flashy and dated way to do it.

Could you imagine Navy Seals having to wait for orders to breach the next room on a mission?