Two weeks into the season, and verdict is in.
Majore League Baseball’s new replay challenge system has its flaws. But compared to no system at all, it’s better than nothing.
The replay system was back in the news over the weekend after it failed to overturn a call in the Red Sox-Yankees game even though a replay clearly showed it should have been overturned.
The problem was that the replay official in New York didn’t have access to the replay that showed the umpire’s call was wrong. That sent Red Sox manager John Farrell into a tizzy.
The next night, when the Yankees won a replay challenge even though Farrell thought the replay was not conclusive, Farrell came out to argue. That earned him an automatic ejection.
Farrell then wondered if the system can’t get every call right, then what’s the point of having a system at all.
That kind of logic is borne out of Farrell’s well-warranted frustration. But it’s like saying if the police can’t catch every criminal, why have a police department at all.
Through Sunday this season, according to the website closecalls.com, there have been 84 replay challenges, of which 40 calls have been confirmed (including Saturday’s incorrect confirmation in New York), 28 calls have been overturned and 16 more calls have been allowed to stand because of inconclusive video evidence.
So that’s 28 botched calls that got corrected. That’s progress. The next step is to get almost all botched calls corrected. I’m not sure perfection is attainable.
And while the replay challenges have brought delays, they have eliminated most of the on-field arguments, which also delay games. We just never knew they delayed games because they were more entertaining to watch than watching umpires put on headphones and stand around for 2-3 minutes.
In 2013, according to closecalls.com, there were 180 ejections of players, coaches and managers. That averages out to about 1.0 per day.
In 2014 through Sunday, there have been five in the first two weeks of the season, or 0.36 per day — a decrease of more than 60 percent. And actually, four of those five occurred on Sunday. So through Saturday, there percentage was more like 0.08 per day.
Four of the five ejections were over balls/strike calls, which are not replay reviewable — nor should they be.
So that means more players are staying in the game, and managers too, which we can assume is making the game better.
Seattle manager Lloyd McClendon said he thought replay would be a good thing for the game when the season started. Now, he’s not so sure.
One point that we do agree with McClendon on is he’s frustrated with the edict that MLB will not review the replay challenge system until after the season is over.
So here are suggestions that we’d make to improve the replay system.
1. All scoring plays are reviewable. Baseball needs to learn from the NFL’s scoring plays on replay. The NFL reviews all scoring plays. Baseball should do the same. Scoring plays are the most important plays in the game. Let’s make sure we get them right.
2. Umpires need to make everyone aware if a call was confirmed, overturned or allowed to stand because of inconclusive video evidence. This is an important distinction and will factor into other changes we propose. Again, the NFL does this. Officials will make a distinction betwen a call that was confirmed or allowed to stand. So if a player was called safe on the field and the umpire signals out after the replay, then clearly the call was overturned. But if the umpire signals safe, then we know the call was confirmed. But if the umpire makes another signal — perhaps pointing to the base or pointing to the ground — then signals safe, that would let everyone know the replay was inconclusive and the call will stand.
3. If call is not overturned because of inconclusive video evidence, the manager does not lose the right to make a second challenge later in the game. If a replay cannot prove that the umpire’s call was right, the manager should not be penalized for challenging the call.
4. There should be a three-minute time limit on reviews. If a decision to overturn or confirm can’t be reached in that time, then it’s inconclusive and they play stands.
5. There should be a three-person review panel, each watching the replays independently. Each then decides to vote to overturn or confirm. If two vote to overturn, it’s overturned. If two vote to confirm, it’s confirmed. However, if within the three-minute period, neither one of those things happen, it becomes inconclusive and play stands.
These suggestions might not solve all the issues with replays. But they would make the system better. And that’s what we need to get to … and we need to do it now.