For far too long, MLB umpires have had a stranglehold on our game with near unlimited power to screw up without repercussion. I get it. They're human. Humans make mistakes. Well, finally, after a swell of concern over the last several years, as the mistakes of umpires have been magnified with the improvement of TV and Internet broadcasts, Major League Baseball is doing something about the fallibility of man.
The MLB owners have approved instant replay for 2014 and it's actually a major step toward making the reality on the field the same as the reality in the box score.
On-field umps will no longer be the arbiter with an overly-fed ego for the finality of baseball plays. To crib off of Richard Durrett's "quick guide to instant replay," here are the new rules for replay:
Here's a list of plays that can be reviewed:
- Home run
- Ground rule double
- Fan interference
- Stadium boundary calls (e.g., fielder into stands, ball into stands triggering dead ball)
- Force play (except the fielder's touching of second base on a double play)
- Tag play (including steals and pickoffs)
- Fair/foul in outfield only
- Trap play in outfield only
- Batter hit by pitch
- Timing play (whether a runner scores before a third out)
- Touching a base (requires appeal)
- Passing runners
- Record keeping (Ball-strike count to a batter, outs, score, and substitutions)
Here are some pertinent details to the rules:
- Managers will tell the crew chief that they want to initiate a challenge.
- Managers have one challenge in the first six innings.
- If the call is overturned, the manager receives a second challenge.
- A manager will have no more than two challenges in the first six innings.
- After the 6th inning, a replay can be initiated by the crew chief.
Now, the good stuff:
Major League Umpires will be staffed as Replay Officials at the Replay Command Center, located at MLB Advanced Media headquarters, for all Major League games. Once the replay challenge is initiated, the crew chief will listen in and get a ruling from the official at the Replay Command Center who will watch the replay. The Replay Official has the final ruling. This takes the final judgement out of the hands of the on-field ump and leaves the egos at the door.
Teams can also have someone in the clubhouse monitoring the same feeds as the Replay Command Center and call to the dugout to let the manager know he should initiate a challenge.
And, perhaps the best news of all, teams have the ability to show replays of all plays on their scoreboards. Close plays, contested plays, and even those that aren't subject to a replay challenge can be displayed and are now freed from the embarrassment of the umpire. All of them. Chuck Morgan unchained!
This is a huge step for Major League Baseball and the umpires. I'm sure all of the umpires, at the heart of the matter, just want to get the calls right. The way things were before, they were almost always on the defensive because no one likes Blue screwin' their team. Now they have the agency to make their calls and have them corrected without losing face.
It's a win-win for everyone. The calls will be made correctly. The fans will see the plays at the ballpark. The umpires are no longer the dictators of our hopes and dreams.