GMs vote for Instant Replay

Today, MLB general managers met up in Orlando, Florida to discuss the possibility of using instant replay in MLB games. The collective general managers voted 25-5 during their Tuesday morning session to at least explore the possibility of using the video technology to help decide disputed home run calls: fair or foul, in or out of the ballpark.

Personally, I think this is a step in the right direction. Just from this year’s MLB playoffs, we’ve had a few questionable calls regarding the deep balls. Did that ball bounce off the yellow line, for instance, in that game at Coors Field?

MLB’s president and chief operating officer commented: “We’ve talked about replay for borderline calls — safe and out, home runs or non-home runs — for a number of years. The umpires, particularly in a four-man crew, in many instances are 150 feet from the outfield fence where the ball crosses the line.” This is an excellent point. The umpires do not have the eyes of a hawk, and are prone to making the wrong call every once in a while.

“Are there circumstances when it might make sense to review that? Having umpired at the amateur level, those are hard calls for umpires to make at that distance.”

Since there’s no formal procedure for moving the concept along, a proposal will now be written and sent to Commissioner Bud Selig, who will determine how it will be vetted, DuPuy said, adding that Selig will almost certainly make a report to the executive council during next week’s owners’ meetings at nearby Naples, Fla. The unions for the players and umpires ultimately will also be involved in the ongoing process.

Calling movement in MLB “glacial,” Jimmie Lee Solomon, MLB’s vice president of baseball operations, said he didn’t expect the proposal to be cast into a rule and implemented in time for the 2008 season. DuPuy seconded that notion. But the majority of the GMs are obviously in line with the replay idea. Notable GM who’s in favour of the idea is Brian Cashman of the New York Yankees. Cashman went on to say, “It’s amazing that umpires are right as much as they are. About 99.9 percent of the time they’re accurate. But nobody wants to be in a position where you work morning, noon and night for 12 months, and have it go down to one call in one game. Each game is important. All I know is I support any form and fashion of baby steps toward utilizing technology to benefit the umpires and the game.”

Again, excellent points by Cashman. He is arguing that the umpires to an excellent job as it is, but why not make the game be that much more accurate, especially in situations where a game can decide a team’s chance of making the playoffs (cue the NL East and NL West battles in 2007).

On the opposite spectrum, we have the new Houston GM Ed Wade who cited the same accuracy numbers as Cashman, but used them in a different perspective. Said Wade, “The umpires were more right than wrong 99.9 percent of the time. With the increased time of the game, at some point you’ll get to a stage where managers are almost compelled to challenge and that’s why I voted against it. I thought the guys on the committee made some very good points. There’s a lot of validity to what they had to say. I just think that if you’re going to do something like that on a limited scope, it doesn’t stay limited.”

Good points by Wade, but I think he’s missing the point. Like in the NFL, there will only be certain plays which would be reviewable. For instance, in implementing the early version of the replay, no plays regarding being safe or out at 1st, 2nd, or 3rd base would be reviewable, but maybe the play at home plate (cue Matt Holliday’s slide to home plate this year in which his hand didn’t touch the bag) would be subject to review. So in that respect, I think the review would be only advantageous to the game, and hardly detrimental.\

Bud Selig, the commissioner of baseball, has been long resistant in using technology to make the game better. However, it seems as though he is reconsidering his stance, after the Rockies were playing the Diamondbacks in the National League Championship Series. Selig raises a valid point in that he think it will delay the game more. Selig said, “I don’t like instant replay because I don’t like all the delays. I think it sometimes creates as many problems or more than it solves. But I am willing to say we’ll at least talk about this if people want to talk about it. I’m going to let the general managers discuss it, let them come back and make recommendations. No, I’m not a big advocate of instant replay.” Again, yes, of course there will be inherent delays in the game, but I think the best compromise is to limit what kinds of plays would be available for review.

After some discussion, the general managers determined that they are in favor of one central replay location somewhere in the United States., most probably at the Commissioner’s Office in New York, to do all replay review, much like the National Hockey League has positioned it. “From the research we’ve done and what we’ve been told, the NHL format works the best,” Toronto GM J.P. Ricciardi said.

The NHL uses replay only to judge disputed goals that are referred by one of the on-ice referees. They have a central location in Toronto where every goal scored during the regular and postseason — more than 6,000 — is reviewed by off-ice officials. One is assigned at a monitor to watch a particular game, meaning that if there are 14 games on a particular night, 14 officials are utilized, said Frank Brown, a spokesman for the league. “The decision on any disputed goal for a televised game is centrally made in Toronto,” Brown said, “no matter where it’s being played.”

For MLB, this could be a large expense to implement, another aspect that baseball officials are going to have to consider. However, I don’t think this kind of review system would work for baseball. In hockey, regardless of whether a goal is scored or not, the game can go on. In baseball, it is much different because a disputed home run call will either bring in all the runners on base, or just those in scoring position (usually). Since there is much more continuity in hockey, and the game doesn’t have to screed to a halt, the external review system that is enforced in the NHL works wonderfully. It would be a nightmare to implement in the leagues, however.

So what’s the best solution? I think a review system set up like that in the National Football League would be best. In that system, a head coach can ask to review certain plays at the risk of losing a timeout if the call is not reversed. The coach can call two challenges in a half; if both his challenges are overturned, then he receives an additional challenge as a reward. The major obstacles to figure out would be which plays in MLB should be reviewable, and what should the penalty be if a manager calls for a review haphazardly. Of course, the manager question can be eliminated altogether if there is a central “booth” type review (sort of like in the NFL when the clock is two minutes or less in the half). I remain optimistic that MLB will go forward with the review, and I want to see at least a rudimentary system be in place for the 2008 season.

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~ by mlb2007playoffs on November 6, 2007.

One Response to “GMs vote for Instant Replay”

  1. […] but this year they were quite exciting. Notable highlights included agreement to study the instant replay (which was voted for in a 25-5 decision), a five-player trade, and an open discussion where each GM […]

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