For all that Major League Baseball has done to spin their game forward, including the utilization of some instant replay, the available technology they refuse to use is baffling.
USA Today’s Bob Nightengale reports, however, that there is a significant chance that baseball could be ready to move on an expanded replay system that would include potential reviews of virtually all calls – except those governing the strike zone.
The owners of all 30 member clubs will hear proposals put together by former MLB managers (and now executives within Major League Baseball) Joe Torre and Tony LaRussa, along with John Schuerholz, President of the Atlanta Braves. If enough of those owners like what they hear, Baseball could begin negotiations with the Umpire’s Union to have expanded replay ready for use in the 2014 season.
The biggest hurdle this new replay system has is the cost of implementing it. With a purpose-built camera system that would have to be installed in every big league stadium, estimates of the project range from $25-40 million and those costs would come out of the pockets of ownership.
When you consider that such a cost would “only” average about a million bucks per owner and then consider how many of these owners have given away far greater amounts of money in bad contracts, this seems a worthwhile investment.
While nothing has been decided, one of the replay plans would involve a centrally-located umpire or umpiring crew, who would be watching games and reviewing calls in some remote location, much like is done in the National Hockey League. From there, a simple phone call would put the issue to bed and keep the game moving as quickly as possible. This plan, as opposed to the way baseball currently reviews plays – with all four umpires leaving the field to go look at tape – would seem to best limit additional delays.
While studies indicate that an average of three calls are missed each night, accounting for less than one percent of calls made, the umpires are all for getting the additional help. While blown calls are quickly overturned by replay in the NFL all the time, baseball has allowed their umpires to have to stand behind their mistakes and wear them at each game they work.
Anytime I see a game being worked by Tim Welke, I’m brought back to the out call he made when Todd Helton was at least two feet off of the bag at first base. When I see Jerry Meals, I can’t help but think of the 19-inning marathon ended when he inexplicably called a Braves runner safe at the plate, and even Jim Joyce conjures up memories of the perfect game that should have been. None of these umpires should have to be remembered for their mistakes, not when they make so few of them.
If baseball adopts a replay system of any magnitude, those calls would have all been overturned and those memories erased.
And maybe, just maybe, the next time you see a hit by pitch missed in Game 163, like Brandon Inge’s in 2009, or a bang-bang play at the plate like Matt Holliday scoring on a sacrifice fly (he still hasn’t touched the plate) in 2007, those season-altering calls can be corrected and the game can be decided by the players on the field, instead of the men in blue.