Today in Arizona, MLB owners unanimously approved the proposal that will make the expanded use of instant replay a reality in 2014. The players and umpires have also given their blessings.
Not happy with limiting replay usage to questionable homeruns only, Commissioner Selig pushed for a new system that is likely to extend the average time of games while having little impact on improving the umpires percentages of correct calls. It’s the NFL all over again.
Remember when the NFL first adopted instant replay? Referees were suddenly afraid to make a call. Quite often, a couple of zebras would stare at each other for a few seconds, maybe exchange a few words, and then make a decision. It was terrible.
My fear is that baseball is headed down the same path.
Not only is it likely that only a small number of bad calls will be overturned — I feel it could become a safety issue for the players.
MLB would have us believe that safety is a concern. A vote on another new policy that is designed to eliminate home plate collisions is expected to be passed prior to the start of the season. I don’t like that one either… but that’s another story.
The managers now have the power to challenge a call — and a lot will depend on how they choose to use that power. Challenging certain types of calls could result in putting players more at risk for injuries, in my opinion.
Umpires have always taken player safety into account when making calls in MLB games. As long as the ball beats a player to a base and the fielder makes a valiant effort to tag the runner (or the bag on a force play) the runner is usually called out. If managers decide to challenge these types of plays on a regular basis things could get ugly.
And what happens when a fielder traps the ball and an out is called, only to be overturned by a challenge. Where do we put the baserunners that stopped running when the out call was made? A ball is called foul and everyone stops running, then the call is overturned. What a big mess that is going to be!
These are just a few examples of a seemingly endless number of potential problems with replay. Overall, I think the umpires do a pretty good job. Changing the way they (and the players) are accustomed to working is asking for trouble.
One thing I’ve always loved about baseball was the fact that, unlike the NFL, MLB doesn’t change the rules every season. I guess those days are over. Get ready for long delays and mass confusion on a daily basis.