The new Collective Bargaining Agreement is supposed to include expanded use of instant replay. It wasn’t able to be implemented for 2012, however, because no one was clear on how the logistics would work. Jayson Stark was on ESPN Radio this morning, however, and he says that the league, the union and the umps have an idea in the works that could go online in 2013. Via Business Insider:
- A group of umpires will watch games from a central location
- On plays that are “clearly wrong” the group would then signal the umpires at the game and let them know there is an obvious call that needs to be changed
As has been previously reported, the expanded replay would be used for home runs, boundary calls and catches vs. traps, initially. After that, Stark said, it could be opened up to “all sorts of calls,” assuming the kinks were worked out as applied to limited calls.
The new wrinkle here is the umpires at a “central location.” While this is not quite what I envisioned — I like the idea of a fifth ump on every crew, stationed in a booth at the game — it is preferable to any challenge system or a system like the one we have now in which home run calls are reviewed via the umps leaving the field for a few moments.
The benefit to what Stark is describing: the idea that someone can just call in and overrule something if it’s simply a bad call as opposed to integrating replay into game strategy like football does. There is also a speed enhancement keeping the umps on the field. For the league: the benefit of not having to hire 15 new umpires to man the current crews.
The downside: depending on how many umps are at this “central location,” is it not possible that calls could be missed or that reviews could take longer? There are sometimes 15 games going on at once. What if there are multiple obviously wrong calls at once? It also seems that a disembodied voice from HQ overruling calls could lead to some resentment and ultimately problems between the field umps and the replay umps. If you had a replay ump at each park, as part of the regular umpiring crew, even rotating through on-field assignments like umps on a crew do now, there is an instant parity and respect between roles.
But let’s not make the perfect the enemy of the good. If MLB is going to go with a replay regime that (a) involves eyes in the sky making common sense reversals of bad on-field calls; that (b) could eventually be expanded into “all sorts of calls,” that’s progress of a major kind.