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Major League Baseball took a giant step forward on Thursday when it was announced that the league would adopt a new instant replay system in the 2014 season, one which allows for managers to challenge any call on the field, aside from balls and strikes.
Assuming 75% of the owners agree to the change, teams will be able to use one challenge in the first six innings of a game, and will have two challenges available from the seventh inning on. The first challenge does not carry over into the later innings.
A concern with expanded replay is the length of games, as replays would only take up more time in a sport that has seen a gradual increase in game length over the last 30 years. However, along with the new replay there now exists a rule that says that managers may no longer argue reviewable calls. This should take away some of the unnecessary banter in games, as instead a manager need only signal for the challenge if he questions a call.
The obvious advantage to the new system is that at the end of the day, a great percentage of calls on the field will be correct, and managers will have the challenge of determining whether or not a close call is worth challenging. Unlike the National Football League, if a team challenges a call and the call is overturned, they retain the challenge. This way, more mistakes by the umpires won’t necessarily lead to less opportunity to get it right.
This should immediately put a stop to all of the drama in the sport these days regarding bad umpiring. The truth is that like most other professional sports, umpiring a baseball game is difficult, especially with bang-bang plays on the base paths and borderline catches by outfielders far away from their view.
Of course, there are issues with the proposed system–some of which may be addressed with time, as the league expects the use of their new replay in 2014 to be a trial run. Replays can technically be used on any play–which means a manager could challenge a play and force umpires to go take a look in order to get more time for a reliever to warm up late in a game.
There is also the chance that the replay of the call won’t lead to the correct call anyways–a situation which may remain a realistic frustration of the sport for many years. Overall, this change is one for the better, but only time will tell how effective it is over the course of a season.