Major League Baseball made a historic decision last week to bring to the owners, players and managers a vote to expand the current instant replay format to a format similar to the one the NFL uses. The new expansion will include “challenges” the manager can initiate and will cover just about every play aside from balls and strikes. The umpires will retain the right to be able to submit plays for review as well. I’m not quite sure if the managers will be given a red flag like the NFL coaches use, although it would be hilarious to see some managers throw their flags at the umpires when wanting to issue a challenge. Is the NFL system working well enough for baseball to adopt it?
There are very different schools of thought when it comes to baseball fans and football fans. Baseball fans are purists. While there have been an increasing number of “blown calls” this season in baseball, some diehards are still sticking with their guns and not budging on wanting to expand the existing instant replay system. The other school of thought is more modern. If you have the technology to improve things, why not use it? Football fans would have the players riding scooters if they really thought it would improve the game. Baseball fans don’t want anything different than how the game was played 100 years ago.
The biggest drawback from instituting an expanded replay system in Major League Baseball is it will inevitably expand the time of the games. Baseball games average about three hours or so. Some go way longer. The average Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees game lasts about 14 and a half hours, give or take a few minutes. Adding a challenge system similar to what the NFL uses could mean that a four-game Red Sox vs. Yankees series would last roughly two and a half weeks. Per the media release regarding the decision to expand on mlb.com they don’t expect the new replay system to add additional time to the games.
“Now our replays take three minutes and four seconds on average. And we expect now that [future] replays will take a minute [and] 15 [seconds].”
The replays are going to be reviewed by umpires at MLB facilities in New York. And that’s going to be faster than the process in place now? How long do they expect the manager’s argument to last when he wants to challenge a call in the first place?
I’m not a fan of both the NFL’s and MLB’s instant replay policies relying on the coaching staff of the teams to initiate a review. If the whole point of having a policy that helps improve the accuracy of the calls, why not spend that time on the referees and umpires to make sure they’re held accountable for the blown calls in the first place? I agree that sports need to have their “human element” in order to distinguish them from video games but that human is supposed to be the ref or the umpire. I think baseball had a chance here to do something right. They had a chance to improve the quality of games by expanding the instant replay to enhance the accuracy of its officials. Instead they passed the buck to the managers just like the NFL passed the buck to the coaches. Blown call.