Oct 23, 2013; Boston, MA, USA; Umpires huddle after Boston Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia (not pictured) was initially ruled out on a fielder

Baltimore Orioles, Buck Showalter, and Instant Replay Strategy

Yesterday the MLB owners approved an expanded use of instant replay. For an excellent summary of the provisions and scope of this decision, check out this article on our network’s general baseball blog, Call to the Pen.

Quickly stated, for certain types of plays the manager will have one challenge to use per game. If the play is overturned, the manager will have one more challenge for the rest of the game. After the beginning of the 7th inning, the crew chief may initiate a replay at his discretion. The replays and decisions will all be done in a command center in New York, and there must be “clear and convincing evidence to overturn a call.” Teams will have facility and personnel to communicate with a video specialist located in the clubhouse.

So, the question of the day is how this will be used by teams like, for our interest, the Baltimore Orioles and Buck Showalter.

I cannot imagine how this will not add to the length of games. It would seem to me that we can imagine perhaps three to four of these incidents in a typical contest. I could imagine them piling up at the same time with other games’ replays in the command center. I love baseball and have put up with a lot of foul weather in a stadium to see my beloved sport, but I can imagine even a hard-core guy like me getting irritated with the waiting.

Will telecasts go off to a commercial while the review happens as they do in football?  I understand that the system is set up to function rather quickly … but still, try to picture the pitcher and fielders just hanging around and waiting, etc. Add to this the time the manager took to come out and argue a bit while requesting the review. (Imagine a manager, during a very rainy game, coming out and using his challenge just to make the other team stand in the pouring weather while a play is being reviewed.)

Also, imagine the scenarios in the 7th inning and beyond. Say that a team still has their challenge in their pocket but is hesitant to use it, or perhaps that they’ve already burned it. And imagine the posturing, yelling, heckling, cajoling, and maybe outright rushing the crew chief to take a look at a play. Especially picture what that ump will be like if HE is the one who made the call that is being challenged, and he is certain that he got it right … which is why he made the call that he did. It seems to me that, in these sorts of scenarios, the possibility of getting a reversal on a call will add to controversies rather than diminish them.

But let me say that I do not have a thought for a better way of doing replays. Perhaps if there was an umpire who was reviewing everything (in the way touchdowns are reviewed in the NFL) and only signaling when there was a situation to look at more closely, that could be better. But this would necessitate the capacity and personnel to do it in every stadium for every game.

Will this make for a higher percentage of correct calls?  I think it certainly will, and for that reason, at the end of the day, I will say that I render my opinion as for the change. As I’ve written in the past as a guy who has seen a lot of baseball trips around the sun, the umpiring is the worst I’ve ever seen it.

This does raise a whole new dialogue about appropriate baseball strategy. There will certainly be discussions of the sort where Buck Showalter will gather his varied coaches and seek to delineate a set of parameters and guidelines for the judicious use of these challenges. What game situations? When in the game should they best be used?  Should they only be on third-out and/or scoring plays in the first half of a game? Will obviously wrong calls early in the game be unchallenged in order to save it for later?

The point is to say here that this does add a new element to the game. It provides an opportunity for a manager to either look like a hero or a goat. We are going to hear of times where a manager will be criticized late in the game for using his challenge foolishly on a lesser situation earlier.

I just hope it adds as much interest to the game as it adds minutes. We don’t need anything to add refrains to the chorus of baseball critics that “the game is so boring and so slow.”

Tags: Baltimore Orioles Baseball Instant Replay Buck Showalter