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updated: 4/7/2014 11:09 AM

First impressions of instant replay

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  • Umpires Jim Joyce, left, and Doug Eddings talk on head phones as they review a call during the fifth inning of a game between the Washington Nationals and Atlanta Braves on Friday. Ian Desmond's inside-the-park homer was overturned on replay review and changed to a ground-rule double.

      Umpires Jim Joyce, left, and Doug Eddings talk on head phones as they review a call during the fifth inning of a game between the Washington Nationals and Atlanta Braves on Friday. Ian Desmond's inside-the-park homer was overturned on replay review and changed to a ground-rule double.
    Associated Press

 
By Len Kasper
Special to the Daily Herald

Instant replay, or replay review as it will be known in Major League Baseball, represents a fundamental change to a game that hasn't always looked kindly upon huge alterations to its process.

While the so-called purists have generally pushed back against things like extra playoff rounds and interleague play, expanded replay represents, I believe, a more integral shift.

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You see, most of the Bud Selig-era innovations have involved formats -- scheduling, realignment and the addition of postseason teams. Replay immediately impacts the game itself.

A week's worth of action bellows a small sample size, so we need a lot more time to really sort out how this going to work. However, I do have a few thoughts on it.

First, I like the concept a lot. The spirit of it is to get as many umpire calls correct as possible, which makes the idea itself pretty much beyond reproach.

Credit also goes to MLB for explicitly stating that this is a work in progress and that it might take a couple years of tweaking. There really was no ideal way to introduce it to a game that had never had it (beyond border calls), so I can't bicker with the way they have rolled it out this season.

Early returns seem to show that the war room is a great idea. Having a centralized off-site location dedicated solely to replay reviews around the league is what the NHL perfected, and despite the costs, MLB made the investment.

Opening up replay to nearly every sort of call in a ballgame -- aside from what are considered judgment calls (checked swings, balls and strikes, etc.) -- was smart. If you're going to do this, leave no stone unturned.

I am less enthusiastic about the manager's place in all of this. As I just mentioned, if you're going to try this, don't limit it. And if the goal is to get as many calls correct as possible, then the whole process needs to be controlled by the umpires.

The challenge system was put in place to limit interruptions and keep replay review from becoming too invasive, but I fear an unintended consequence is actually more on-field discussions between skippers and umps. Every close call we've seen so far has brought out the manager of the team against which the call went. He then has to stall to see what his video people tell him. So instead of limiting "arguments," it has increased "chats" and "suggestions."

It's actually kind of the worst of both worlds in a strange sense -- managers come out more often, creating unnatural breaks in the action, yet we don't get any drama or entertainment by way of the good old-fashioned Earl Weaver- or Lou Piniella-like blow-ups.

I am not advocating a major overhaul of the process. But if a bang-bang play happens at any point in the game, it should be up to the umpires to call New York to have them look at it.

I would keep the managers off the field. If they want to make some sort of hand signal from the dugout indicating they'd like the umpires to take another look, fine. But that should take a few seconds after the play.

Also, I think the replay officials should have a time limit of 60-90 seconds, after which if they still can't decide then the call simply stands.

If getting calls right and maintaining a good pace of play are the top priorities, then my suggestions should be no-brainers.

• Len Kasper is the TV play-by-play broadcaster for the Chicago Cubs. Follow him on Twitter@LenKasper and check out his blog with Jim Deshaies at wgntv.com.

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