As expected, baseball owners approved expanded instant replay for the 2014 season at the owners meetings today. The vote was unanimous. It now goes to the players union and the umpires union in January. Each of them will have to ratify it then.
In its current form it still employs a manager challenge system. Which, as we’ve argued ad nauseum, is an idiotic way to do do things if the goal is to actually get calls correct as opposed to (a) relieving umpires of the responsibility to get calls right and placing it on managers; and (b) introducing a needless strategic element into the game.
But there’s a twist! When the challenge system was unveiled back in August, managers were allowed one challenge in the first six innings and two more from the seventh through the end of the game. Now managers will get a maximum of two challenges that can be used at any point in the game. This too could change, however, as the league will negotiate further with the umps and players.
Bud Selig, who was long opposed to replay, issued a nice comment about it all after the vote:
“My father always said life is a series of adjustments and I’ve made an adjustment. There isn’t one play or one instance that changed my mind. It has just happened over time. I know we’re doing the right thing.”
It’s nice to see someone in a position of power change their mind about something as opposed to continuing to spend all of their efforts either telling you they’re right or changing their mind while pretending that they really haven’t. Still: wish he’d change his mind about the challenge system.
Craig covered the bulk of Rob Manfred’s quotes from earlier. The commissioner was asked about robot umpires and he’s not a fan. Via Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports:
Manfred was wrong to blame the player’s union’s “lack of cooperation” on proposed rule changes, but he’s right about robot umps and the strike zone. The obvious point is that robot umps cannot yet call balls and strikes with greater accuracy than umpires. Those strike zone Twitter accounts, such as this, are sometimes hilariously wrong. Even the strike zone graphics used on television are incorrect and unfortunate percentage of the time.
The first issue to consider about robot umps is taking jobs away from people. There are 99 umps and more in the minors. If robot umpiring was adopted in collegiate baseball, as well as the independent leagues, that’s even more umpires out of work. Is it worth it for an extra one or two percent improvement in accuracy?
Personally, the fallibility of the umpires adds more intrigue to baseball games. There’s strategy involved, as each umpire has tendencies which teams can strategize against. For instance, an umpire with a more generous-than-average strike zone on the outer portion of the plate might entice a pitcher to pepper that area with more sliders than he would otherwise throw. Hitters, knowing an umpire with a smaller strike zone is behind the dish, may take more pitches in an attempt to draw a walk. Or, knowing that information, a hitter may swing for the fences on a 3-0 pitch knowing the pitcher has to throw in a very specific area to guarantee a strike call or else give up a walk.
The umpires make their mistakes in random fashion, so it adds a chaotic, unpredictable element to the game as well. It feels bad when one of those calls goes against your team, but fans often forget the myriad calls that previously went in their teams’ favor. The mistakes will mostly even out in the end.
I haven’t had the opportunity to say this often, but Rob Manfred is right in this instance.
ESPN’s Howard Bryant is reporting that Major League Baseball has approved a rule allowing for a dugout signal for an intentional walk. In other words, baseball is allowing automatic intentional walks. Bryant adds that this rule will be effective for the 2017 season.
MLB has been trying, particularly this month, to improve the pace of play. Getting rid of the formality of throwing four pitches wide of the strike zone will save a minute or two for each intentional walk. There were 932 of them across 2,428 games last season, an average of one intentional walk every 2.6 games. It’s not the biggest improvement, but it’s something at least.
Earlier, Commissioner Rob Manfred was upset with the players’ union’s “lack of cooperation.” Perhaps his public criticism was the catalyst for getting this rule passed.
Unfortunately, getting rid of the intentional walk formality will eradicate the chance of seeing any more moments like this: