My ideas for instant replay use in MLB.

June 07, 2010 | Keith Melchior

Last week, first base umpire Jim Joyce made a bad call that affected a perfect game by Detroit pitcher Armando Galarraga. There was nothing else he could do at the time but make a call and he did. Unfortunately, replays showed it was the wrong call. Joyce apologized after knowing he made an error in judgement, but it could not change the outcome of the game. Umpire crews 15 or more years ago would have swept it under the table and stand firm that they were right and the replays people were seeing were tainted. But what happens if that call was made on the first batter of the game, THEN Galarraga goes out and retires the next 27 hitters? Is there an uproar like this? Doubtful. Perfect means without flaw or error. In baseball, a perfect game means no batter reaches base, no hits, no runs, no walks, and no errors. Sadly, human error is a part of every sport. Overturning the call after the game is over to allow a perfect game is not the way to go. Kudos for baseball to at least get that one right.

The use of replay in major league baseball games seems like a great idea. It doesn’t totally remove the human element of an umpire or referee, but can be used as a tool to aid and enhance that human element image. Referees and umpires aren’t perfect all the time but replay shows they make the correct calls probably more than 97% of the time.  They use replays in football, basketball and ice hockey, so why should baseball be any different. Major league baseball isn’t the pure innocent sport it once was painted to be. The steroid and HGH era proves it. Maybe it is time to evaluate the use of replay in baseball games.

The NHL uses replay to determine a goal/no goal situation. When in doubt the calling official goes to the scorers table and asks to speak to the replay official stationed in one of the press boxes. It is the responsibility of the replay official to determine whether a goal is awarded or not. He relays the information to the referee and the corrct call is made. It is a very simple process and it either shows the referee to be right in his judgement or serves to correct an error. The officials review the replays and use it as a training tool to make them better the next time out. Rules and mechanics changes come about because of use of instant replay.

I have argued for years that the NFL is doing it all wrong. Instead of the white hat making the final decision and wasting time looking under the hood, they need an official in the booth to determine the outcome of a particular play, IF challenged by the head coach. The NFL needs to totally eliminate the “booth challenge review rule” in the last 2 minutes of each half and in overtime and allow the coaches to determine whether a challenge should be made or not. Since when is the last 2 minutes of a half made more important than the first 28 minutes?  I realize it’s traditionally the time a team is scrambling to put itself  into some type of scoring position as the clock is winding down, but by giving the replay booth the authority to force a challenge in those final minutes is totally unfair. Leave it up to the coaches to kill momentum with a challenge if they wish to risk one. If the replay booth gets all the power in the final 2 minutes, then why not have them challenge every questionable call for the other 58 minutes of the game?

Major League Baseball should revamp their use of instant replay to make the game pure again, thus eliminating questionable calls by umpires. We witnessed some terrible calls during the 2009 playoffs. To my knowledge, none of those calls affected the teams that eventually lost their series, but still, getting the calls right makes baseball look like they really care about their game.

Here’s how MLB should use replay:

The umpiring crew is increased to 5 members and their assignments rotate as they do now, so every 5th day they would be assigned to the replay booth. This would help keep them fresh and bring them even more together as a viable team as they assess their strengths and weaknesses throughout the season. Umpires who get calls overturned are flagged and then placed on a probationary list. If  an umpire gets 10 calls overturned in a season, he is to be suspended for 6 months without pay or terminated, unless there are legitimate reasons why the proper call was missed. Umpires who get the least number of calls overturned during the season are rewarded by assignments to post season games and bonus pay increases. This would be a huge incentive for them to make every effort to concentrate on their jobs and get calls correct. MLB closely monitors every replay challenge so the replay umpire would have to make the correct determination and not attempt to cover up for his crew.

Challenges are allowed to determine safe, out, fair, foul, catch, no catch, HR, ground rule double, fan interference, tag ups, and position of runners if a ball goes out of play. The “in the neighborhood”  forceouts at 2nd base would be challengable and placed  under close scrutiny as well. 

Managers will not be allowed to challenge balls and strikes.

Allow managers 2 challenges per game.  Once their 2 challenges are made, there are no further challenge options, so what they challenge would be very important.

Incorrect challenges come with a penalty. If the umpiring crew is determined to have made the  correct call, the manager is ejected and fined $1000  and the team loses it’s 2nd challenge. If the manager is ejected for arguing balls and strikes or ejected for any other reason, the team loses any remaining challenges when it loses its manager. This also serves as an incentive to managers to study and know the rules of the game and  pay attention to the action on the field.

When a challenge is made, calling umpire and the crew chief would contact the replay umpire and a determination would be made quickly.

If a team uses both challenges and the manager remains in the game, he may not question or challenge any subsequent calls. If he comes out to do anything but ask for an interpretation or is beckoned by the umpire for an explanation, he is ejected.

This would be a very simple process, given the fact every game in MLB is on television. It would help the game of baseball in the long run.