kid-watching-tvIt was expected, and now it’s happened. Today MLB’s owners – and, thus, “MLB” – approved a plan to add instant replay to the mix starting as soon as next season.

Contrary to reports in August that first revealed details of the replay system, it appears that it could be relatively limited. In the new system, managers would be given just two challenges to use the entire game, regardless of inning. And, it appears that if a manager is wrong on his first challenge, he doesn’t get his second.

If true, the system is a significant departure from those August reports, which had managers getting three challenges, with no threat to lose them. You have to wonder if the revision is a concession both to umpires and to those who feared the unnecessary lengthening of games.

The review system’s details will trickle out in the coming days, and it will still have to be approved by the players and the umpires (approval is expected). Presumably, all non-ball/strike plays will be challengeable, and there will be a centralized hub for deciding the challenged play.

Today’s news is significant, since the costs of a replay system could be substantial, and the owners would, collectively, be footing the bill. Now that they’ve said yes, I have no doubt that some kind of replay will be in place next year.

That’s probably better than nothing, though I do remain concerned about manager’s using challenges as a kind of strategic distraction. I suppose the threat of losing your second challenge could be enough to deter that behavior. Still, I would have preferred a review system that leaves challenges out of it. Have a centralized hub monitoring all games, and if a call is questionable, they buzz the umps immediately, and review/fix the call.

  • Jon

    will they get a “challenge flag”?

  • TC

    They couldn’t have picked a worse system of replay, in my opinion. Managers already don’t understand lineup construction or run expectancies, and now we’re throwing this hugely complicated risk/reward system on them? And why only two challenges? Ump union admits there may be mistakes, but only four maximum per game? That’s BS, if you admit there will be wrong calls, you pretty much have to be able to review them as many times in a game, or what’s the point?

    Oh, that’d take too long? WELL THEN DONT HAVE THE UMPS LEAVE THE FIELD! Have a 5th guy in the press box, or a war room a la the NHL in MLB’s headquarters that looks at all questionable calls. These guys could get it done by radio/bluetooth/whatever inside the crew chief’s ear in 15 seconds! Why go through the manager coming out to argue, throw the challenge flag, then have all the umps leave the field to retreat to a TV in the clubhouse, where some of them still wont even get the call right anyway? The NHL devised the perfect system years ago, and it baffles me that other leagues haven’t adopted it. Add the TennisTraxWhatever to the stadiums for fair/foul calls, too

    • Patrick W.

      You don’t know the details of any of this, but I would say if you can explain to a manager the new system IN A TWEET it’s probably not hugely complicated. Challenge once, win, you can challenge one more time, lose, you can’t. Wow.. how complicated.

      • TC

        The strategy of when to use those challenges is what’s complicated. Bad call in the 1st inning. Do you challenge? What if it’s Angel Hernandez, who has refused to overturn an obvious call in the past? Do you save your challenges for later in the game?

        The challenge system in football has been atrocious. As any Bears fan who watched Lovie Smith try and negotiate the system over the last decade could tell you, yes, it IS complicated and easy to screw up.

        • Patrick W.

          Who the umpire is doesn’t matter. We don’t know the details, but if you think Angel Hernandez is going to be in charge of deciding if his own call was right or wrong, and that it’s obvious it’s wrong, and that replay shows it’s obviously wrong, and he still won’t reverse it, you think some highly unlikely things.

          Also I’m guessing managers know that a first inning bad call is much more important than a second inning call, in that more runs are recorded in the first inning of a ball game than any other inning.

      • Funn Dave

        I don’t think that’s accurate. According to the ESPN article, if a manager gets the first challenge wrong, he still gets the second. But if he gets it right, he still has at least two challenges left to use. And as much as I hate ESPN, I trust it a lot more than / dislike it a lot less than the brain vacuum that is Twitter.

    • Patrick W.

      Also, I am willing to wager less than 2 challenges per game will be the average, and we will find out there are far fewer mistakes than we actually think there are.

      • WGNstatic

        I would agree with that. However, I do have a problem with the notion of a possible 3rd bad call being irreversible because two previous challenges have occurred.

        I would say teams get 1 challenge per game, if a call is overturned (i.e. the challenge is won) the challenge doesn’t count and the team still has the 1 challenge.

        • Patrick W.

          I guess it’s possible, but it has to be so rare for three bad calls to go against the same team in one game that it’s worth that minimal risk to not imply that umpires are making mistakes in 3 of the 30 or so non strike-out plays a team has in a game.

          I’m not sure how your suggestion differs from the current plan.

    • hansman

      “WELL THEN DONT HAVE THE UMPS LEAVE THE FIELD! Have a 5th guy in the press box, or a war room a la the NHL in MLB’s headquarters that looks at all questionable calls. ”

      Maybe I misread the article, but isn’t this what Brett said it would be?

      • chrisfchi

        I can live with a MLB war room for reviews.

    • Funn Dave

      I agree that it’s stupid, but I don’t think it’s entirely accurate to say that there will be a maximum of four challenges a game. From the ESPN article: “if the challenge is upheld it would not be counted against the manager’s limit. If a manager is out of challenges, umpires probably will be allowed request a review on their own.”

      So they’ll only lose a challenge if they get one wrong beforehand, which to me seems like a decent deterrent from going crazy with the challenges or using them to interrupt the flow of the game.

  • MightyBear

    At least American League managers will have to do something now.

    • Edwin

      Yeah, because NL managaers have sooo much more to do than AL managers.

    • justinjabs


    • Funn Dave

      I laughed.

  • Die hard

    Sure why not make games longer– here’s an idea- if they put up Jumbotron designate fans to make the call provided fans of each team selected and if a tie then play stands– at least fans will think it makes a difference

  • Eric

    Personally, I guess this is one of those things I’d rather be a traditionalist about. I just don’t see the need.

  • Die hard

    Replays for homers makes sense– otherwise taking away from the game mystique … For instance isn’t it more fun to debate for generations whether Pappas was robbed of a perfect game? Maybe balls and strikes will be excluded but point is baseball is not football and when they stop trying to make games similar will fans appreciate the difference

  • Paul

    In my opinion, it is poorly used in college and pro football. I’ve seen too many instances where a call on the field which was correct, was reversed. This compounds a bad call since the replay official had a chance to watch multiple angles in slow motion and then reversed a call which was correct on the field. There should never be a call blown from the booth. This is the ultimate FAIL of a system.

    This is a disaster in the making. At least there will be limited challenges. What about the understood ‘halo’ rule at second base when turning a double play? There was already a blown call in the A’s and Tigers playoff game. By rule the player’s ‘opportunity’ to make the catch was obstructed. Replay can remedy some bad calls, however the times it has failed undermines the entire system.

    • dshea

      Almost every call I have ever seen challenged in the NFL turned out to be correct after it was reviewed. Are you saying that instant replay should be banished in the NFL because a few were missed even after the review? Come on!

      • Paul

        Almost? As I noted to another BN’er, Would you use a calculator that is almost always correct?

        • hansman

          I am fairly certain his calculator is a machine that is designed to solely calculate things.

          Not a human being that is poorly suited to see live action plays or through a grainy tv feed.

          • Paul

            The feeds aren’t grainy. They see what we see and if there is doubt, it should be left as it stands. Granted they have gotten better, but it took years to get to where it is right ‘most’ of the time and there is no excuse for mistakes in the booth with the technology available. Bad judgement with replay exponentially makes a bad call worse in my opinion.

            • hansman

              Apparently you havent seen the nfl replays when they zoom in

      • DarthHater

        “Almost every call I have ever seen challenged in the NFL turned out to be correct after it was reviewed.”

        Actually, challenges in the NFL are generally successful about 40-50% of the time.

  • Die hard

    Another Bud legacy– maybe new commish will rescind this and other bad decisions

    • Paul

      Like the All-Star game winner getting home field and BammerCare? :)

  • ssckelley

    I am not a big fan of challenges. I am all for getting the call right on the field but not because a manager in a dugout feels a call is incorrect on a play he has zero good angle to see for himself. Just have an extra official sitting in the booth watching all video feeds to be able to overturn a call that he has indisputable evidence is incorrect.

  • dshea

    I think the challenge works really well in the NFL. They usually get the call correct, and that’s the point, right? I’m excited about instant replay in MLB. They’ve been frustrating fans and getting calls worng for too long when the technology is there to get it right. This is a good start with two challenges. If they need more, they can address the issue in future years. Why not have the umps carry cell phones and the central office can call them and tell them the decision. They wouldn’t have to leave their position in the field.

    • Paul

      Usually get it right? Would you use a calculator that is usually correct?

      There should never be a question as to whether it is right. It should be 100% or it doesn’t work. If it is not obvious, it should not be reversed. However, the replay officials make ‘judgement calls” from the booth. There should never be a case where judgement overrules judgement. This is my opinion and I think it should be used more effectively.

      • Edwin

        I hold my calculator to a different standard than calls during a live sporting event.

        • Paul

          My point is that there should be no mistakes with replay. It either is or it isn’t. They should not use judgment to overrule judgement.

  • itzscott

    A blown call is a blown call.

    Of course there should be challenges to get the call right, as many as is needed.

    I’d also like to see an electronic “umpire” calling balls & strikes calibrated to what the rule book says and just have plate umpires deciding calls at the plate.

    Let’s get the game right and make it 100% fair without question.

    • JM

      Why not have robot players while we’re at it?

      Yes, that is meant to sound ridiculous. There are human players playing a game judged by human umpires. Mistakes may happen. It’s not the end of the world. It’s part of life that mistakes happen. Why try and create something that doesn’t even truly exist… a perfect system?

      • Spriggs

        Program the robots so that they will never make any fielding errors or goofy baserunning mistakes! We should not tolerate human errors when machines can fix everything.

        • DarthHater


        • Funn Dave

          Yes, let’s get some MLB Error Douches.

  • cking6178

    Initial reaction is that this is a poor implementation of a potentially useful system. Replay doesn’t need to be in the managers’ hands, it should be similar to college football where there are people reviewing each play and buzz down to the officials if they need a longer look. There could be replay officials at each game that look at all plays and if the call is obviously wrong, they buzz down and relay the correct call to the crew chief. Seems simple enough.

    • Funn Dave

      I agree that it would be better that way (although I also think that there shouldn’t be any replay in baseball and that it reinforces the selfish win-or-you’re-an-utter-failure attitude that has permeated sports while counteracting the notion that sports are about having fun, a mindset fewer and fewer people seem to share). But challenges add drama and make it easier for people to point fingers at managers, which people loove to do. I’m not pro-drama, but MLB certainly is.

  • Pete

    I watched the Mesa Solar Sox game when it was on MLB Network a few weeks ago. This was the first professional game to use instant replay and for that night, managers were given an unlimited number of challenges. There weren’t as many as I thought there was going to be. Most of the close calls at first base were challenged. All it took was the manager telling the home ump he wanted it reviewed, the ump motioned up to the booth and put on a headset. Most of the replays were over in under a minute and I don’t think one of them was overturned. So I took away 2 things from that game: 1) It did not significantly lengthen the game, and 2) the umpires were correct more than I thought.

    • Funn Dave

      Well I’m glad to hear that the challenges weren’t too long, although it’s very possible that they would be more in-depth for an MLB game than an AFL game.

  • Joycedaddy

    With replay, FIVE.HOUR.GAMES. This calls for a Cubs drinking game……

  • Funn Dave

    Brett, the way I read the ESPN article earlier was that each manager will essentially have unlimited challenges as long as those challenges are successful. If a manager challenges a call that does not end up getting overturned, that’s basically strike one; and if he or she (hey, I can dream of equality, right?) misses another one, then that team is out of challenges for the remainder of the game. Then again, I am fallible (I know, it’s hard to believe), and it’s possible that I misread the article or that certain things have been modified/clarified since then.

    Also, I’m with you on the whole challenge system being less than ideal. It’ll just be just as lame as football challenges: a long wait for the results of the review as the commentators build an artificially inflated sense of tension, go over the replay ad nauseum, and eventually start reaching for things to say–not to mention a likely increase in commerical breaks. Then, an ump will make the call, the camera will show each manager’s fist pump or look of anger/disappointment/disbelief, and the sports world will criticize either the umps for getting it wrong the first time or the manager for challenging a correct call. No, thank you.

    • Brett

      The full deets weren’t available when I wrote this (as word was breaking). I’ll but updating/writing an update piece when the players/umpires vote on it, with the full details.

      • Funn Dave


  • Jason

    With technology available today, it seems like this centralized hub would be a viable option…Leave it up to the home plate ump who would have some sort of signaling device in his pocket, which would alert the folks at the hub to check out a close play that just happened. Seems like the the “humps” (hub umps) would be able to make a determination of either the right call, or to signal to the ump that they need a few more seconds. This way, you really get all calls right, and don’t have the risk of managers managing these challenges to their advantage.

    I’m not talking 15-20 calls to the humps per game here. Just those that the home plate ump knows was a very close play. Close plays happen almost every game, and if we can make them all correct, I believe that’s the main goal. It’s usually pretty easy to determine the correct call after seeing at most two angles of a close play. Of course there are calls that might take 2-3 minutes to get right, but that would be the case with the challenge flags anyway.