kid-watching-tvAs hinted in the Bullets this morning, MLB’s ownership groups were today presented with a massively expanded instant replay program, which was widely accepted by the group. Although the plan will not be formally adopted until November, Commissioner Bud Selig called today “historic,” per USA Today, suggesting that he sees the new replay system as a fait accompli.

Selig is right that, when the changes kick in, the game will be changed by all historic standards. Included in the new replay program (per USA Today – though I think some of the finer details are still being worked out, so this isn’t quite yet gospel):

  • Every play outside of balls and strikes will be subject to review.
  • Managers will be able to initiate a review by “challenging” a play. They will have three challenges per game – one for the first six innings, and then two for the rest of the game.
  • If a manager’s challenge is successful, he doesn’t lose that challenge.
  • Even if all challenges are exhausted, the umpiring crew can, on its own, initiate the review of a home run call.
  • A centralized crew in New York will conduct all reviews and make the final decision.


For me, I’m envisioning lengthened games, particularly those involving managers who make certain to use up all of their challenges every single game (maybe even using them to distract an opposing pitcher or give a little more time for a reliever to warm up). If the manager is correct on a couple, that could be five reviews in a single game from one team. And what’s to stop that manager from coming out to at least argue subsequent calls he doesn’t like?

I like the idea of getting calls right, but I really don’t like “challenge” systems. Just have a centralized hub, monitoring all games, and they buzz the local umpiring crew if they feel a certain call needs to be reviewed further. The game is temporarily paused, the centralized hub conducts the review, and informs the crew of the decision. In theory, it should happen only a handful of times per game, and shouldn’t take much time for each review. Once you inject a layer of partiality – the managers – you’re going to have gamesmanship. Haven’t we seen that already in the NFL? I find the Big Ten’s automatic review system to be far, far preferable.

As I argued to Sahadev on this week’s episode of the podcast, I fear that baseball games are already growing too long to attract/keep the casual fans the sport needs to thrive. This could exacerbate the problem.

  • Jon

    Svuem should enroll in the Lovie Smith school of “Throwing Challenges” this off-season. :)

  • Edward

    At least they are using a centralized office. Shouldn’t slow things down too much.

  • Featherstone

    Does this mean Fair or Foul on Home runs will also be reviewed in NY or will it be continued to be done at the game?

    • Brett

      I believe that is unclear at this point. Best guess is NY.

  • ETS

    Your relievers shouldn’t be able to touch a baseball during a challenge.

  • brunsmk

    Agreed that the challenge system doesn’t make sense. Just let someone review each play and move on. For the most part it wouldn’t slow the game down at all. If someone can’t really tell from one to two quick looks probably not worth it. Biggest problem is the time between pitches, just get in box and hit the ball.

  • Cubbie Blues

    This, sounds to me as though they are trying to placate to both sides of the issue. On the one side you have the human element and the game is too long on the other let’s get the call right no matter what. The length of game is where the limitations come in, but they say they want to get the calls right which is why they are wanting to expand in the first place. I would much rather have a system like the B1G. There are other ways to cut down the game times. For example, limit the amount (or completely cut out) the amount of times the batter can step out of the box.

  • Cubbie Blues

    I guess the proposed system could cut down on Managers arguing on the field. You could even have a rule that if a team is out of challenges and a Manager steps out on the field they are immediately ejected. That should speed the game up a bit as well.

    • hansman1982

      I’ve always wanted that to be how a manager challenges a call. Gives the fans entertainment and something to look at during the challenge.

      • DarthHater

        They want you to watch Coke commercials on the jumbotron during challenges…

        • Sheadp

          This would replace the manager arguing with the umps. This is wonderful news! Welcome to the modern era!

  • Tank

    You can’t limit the number of times a batter steps out of box. Are you then going to limit throws to first or how many times a pitcher can step off the rubber or even grab the rosin bag? Where does it end?

    • Edwin

      Why not? I’d be fine with doing all those things. I also wouldn’t mind having a set maximum amount of time a pitcher can take between pitches. I don’t think it would mess with the quality of the play on the field, and it could help shorten games. Which is important.

      • Scotti

        If you limit throws to first then you are basically granting a SB once the pitcher goes past his limit.

        • Edwin

          I don’t think it’s a problem if you put the limit at something like 3 per plate appearance. Or more, if you’d like. As long as there is still the threat of a throw to first, the runner will have to remain somewhat cautious.

  • Mike W

    This is a joke right? I can understand the NFL with 2 challenges a game because the game moves so fast and calls are different then Balls and Strikes in baseball. Are you telling me if a batter strikes out because an umpire calls strike 3 and it is challenged they can see the ball actually was too low or too high or outside then reverse the call and continue the AB minutes later? NO THANKS! That is such a waste of time. Baseball is already slow enough from batters leaving the batters box every pitch to “adjust their gloves” to pitchers walking slowly around the mound during AB’s. This is seriously a mistake if they allow this. NBA replay sucks and most of the time they dont replay the calls that need to be replayed. They can only replay calls under the 2 minute mark and thats bogus. I find this a HUGE mistake to baseball. if an umpire calls you out is just like if a ref calls a foul on you for hacking a guys arm in basketball or pass inference in football. Those plays are not reviewable. The umpires are not prefect nor are the refs in any other sport. I can understand Home Runs but not Outs. Umpires get paid to make calls not look at a replay and make the call. I can do that from home. If this is enforced im not going to spend an extra hour at the ballpark watching managers throw out challenge flags from the dugout, that is not BASEBALL!

    • Mike W

      Read that wrong I thought balls and strikes were reviewable also. My fault.

    • wvcubsfan

      Reading is your friend.

      First bullet point from the original post “Every play outside of balls and strikes will be subject to review.”

      I think that should negate 95% of your comment.

      • Spencer

        “Reading is your friend.”

        Ditto, you.

        • wvcubsfan

          Hey can’t help it if there is no edit button, or warning that other comments were added while I was typing.

  • Inkastad

    I like the challenge system. Works well in tennis, e.g. But, three per game is at least one too many.

  • isuquinndog

    I would think that if a manager didn’t have any challenges left and comes out to argue, that would be an almost immediate ejection now. There is a system in place to make sure umps get it right, you don’t have any challenges left, tough cookies. You don’t get to argue.

    • Inkastad

      How often does an argument lead to a reversed call? Remove it, makes no sense.

      • wvcubsfan

        Sure, but then you wouldn’t get to see overweight old guys crawl around on the field and throw second base like a hand grenade. Are you really willing to give up high quality entertainment like that?

  • Spencer

    I tweeted pretty much all of this stuff earlier this afternoon. I agree completely. It’s not a good system.

  • MichiganGoat

    Yeah the challenges are going to really slow down the game further. At least ban managers from coming out to argue balls & strikes.

    • DarthHater

      Replace Detroit Tigers with actual tigers. That’ll speed things up.

  • The Show

    Add a 5th ump to the booth, Have the CC connected to the 5th ump and the fans. Whenever a manager comes out to argue a call the CC asks the 5th ump and he gives his ruling. The CC then publicly announces the ruling and other moves like double switches and what not to the fans. Kind of like hockey and football.

    • wax_eagle

      Can he have a hovering flying saucer thing so he appears in the middle of the field to make the announcement like an Imperial senator?

      • On The Farm

        “Execute order 66”

        • DarthHater

          It will be done, my lord.

  • wpbc

    the time has come to end the bud selig era as commish. the last two changes to the game this and the one game playin games for the wildcard are just stupid. send bud into the joys of retirement and get a younger commish that can navigate this age.

  • wpbc

    the idea of managers challenging is just exhausting.

  • DrReiCow

    I think the extra time generated by replays could be partially offset by heavily penalizing managers and players who argue with umps for a long time, thus causing game delays. Umps could have a quick hook for ejections and the league could levy fines or suspensions for delaying the game after ejections.

    They could also do something wild and crazy and actually enforce timing rules on pitchers and hitters.


  • wvcubsfan

    I’m not sure this will really increase the average game time. To me there are still going to be long games (lots of hits and runs) and short games (very few hits and runs). This challenge system might add five minutes to a game that didn’t have a reviewed call under the present rules, and could possibly save a few minutes to a game that did have a reviewed call.

    The way I read that is that all of the umpires will not have to leave the field, huddle around a little TV monitor, get a drink of water, and use the bath room in a review situation under the new system.

  • Edwin

    Speaking of rule changes, what if both leagues went to an 8 man lineup, and just removed the DH/Pitching spot altogether? That way pitchers no longer need to worry about batting, but teams still need to put some kind of value on fielding.

  • Luke

    I’d prefer to have reviews conducted in stadium, perhaps by the scorekeeper, than by a group in New York.

    At some point that NY crew is going to get buried by five six review requests in a short amount of time. If they spend 3-5 minutes on each one, then that last game is sitting on a half hour pause. If that pause comes with two outs in an inning, then some starting pitcher is in all likelihood sitting for as long as an hour before he goes back out.

    I’m not sure I like this.

    • wvcubsfan

      Surely they would have more than 1 “crew” on duty at a given time. I would think that # would depend on the number of games going on. Something like 1 crew for 3 games.

      Granted if that were the number and there was only 3 games at that time, and all three games had a review at the same time, or at least before the previous one was resolved, you would have a problem.

    • Hookers or Cake

      The league should appoint an official scorekeeper for every game. Eliminating error/hit call homerism. That guy could also do in house reviews and phone down to the field.

      • wvcubsfan

        I kind of like the replay being off site. That way there is do outside influence (read fans) on the ruling at all.

        • Luke

          Unless the ruling goes in favor of the Yankees/Mets. Then fans will just assume homerism by the review crew.

  • waittilthisyear

    im going to miss managers bumping chests with umpires while screaming uncontrollable. kicking dirt, throwing hats and bases, thats unique to baseball

  • Patrick W.

    Do we really think managers are going to challenge plays that they wouldn’t have come out of the dugout to argue? I think it might balance out. If the idea is that a manager might use a challenge to upset an opposing pitcher, how is that different than a manager coming out of the dugout to argue a play? The manager can’t challenge anything that he couldn’t come out and argue about. I just don’t see it adding much (and perhaps reducing overall) game times.

    • MichiganGoat

      Yes but if the managers comes out to argue and “throws” a challenge it could start to be used as a stalling technique to disrupt the game. I hope that NY is very quick with thier review meaning that they have made the judgement before the arguing begins. If within a minute of the play a judgement can be made and if a challenge is issued then within moments we know the results but if every challenge takes a commercial break it can add 10+ minutes a game.

      • Patrick W.

        How long does the normal NHL Video Review take? I watch a lot of hockey and I can’t remember many of them taking more than a minute, and they often have to review plays that might have similar issues in MLB. Did the puck cross the goal – was the ball fair or foul? Did the puck cross the goal before the net was dislodged -did the ball get in the glove of the defender before the runner touched the bag; Did the player purposefully kick or slap with the hand the puck on a goal – did the defender catch the ball before it touched the ground. I think the system as laid out has the potential to shorten games.

  • Pat

    I fail to see the problem with three to five challenges. Most games aren’t going to involve more than a single questionable play in the first place.

    As for the idea that it will be abused, I just don’t see it. The odds that the preceding play was questionable enough to need review AND the manager wants to distract the pitcher (which I would think he could do now by going out and arguing the preceding questionable play) are minimal.

  • Carne Harris

    Nice. Now just balls and strikes and we’ll have a game almost completely decided by the players instead of human error by the umps.

    • Internet Random

      I was hoping to see PitchTrax calling balls and strikes before replay was instituted.

      • Carne Harris

        Maybe down the road some blown calls in the playoffs will put the pressure on to do that too.

  • BD

    My biggest problem with this is the additional time it will take. Challenge reviews are my least favorite part of football (as far as length of game goes).

    My idea (like I’m the only one to ever suggest it) to enforce stricter time limits between pitches and between innings is now looking like it would be more helpful.

  • Norm

    Wow this is stupid.
    Just have an ump with a monitor in front of him, if a call is wrong, contact the crew chief and fix it.

  • MichiganGoat

    I’m sure MLB keeps some sort of record about incorrect calls but is any of this information available to the public? I’m curious jaw many play would have been overturned this year or a previous year.

  • Jason P

    Contrary to what seems to be the popular opinion developing, I like the plan. The only thing I’d like to see added is making it so that it’s an automatic ejection if a manager comes out to argue when he has no challenges left.

    And since (A) the manager keeps his challenge if he gets it right and (B) replays can be initiated without the manager, I think 1 challenge for the final 3 innings is sufficient.

    But overall, miles better than what we have now.

  • http://Bleachernation Lou Brock

    PitchTrax never changes the size of the box. Adam Dunn at 6’6″” gets the same strike zone as 5’7″ Tony Campana. Of course, umpires also do not seem to adjust their zone either. They both suck.

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    • The Cleanup Poster

      What did I just read ?

      • Cubbie Blues