Expanded replay for 2013 to include umpires “at a central location”

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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.

MLB crowds jump from ’21, still below pre-pandemic levels

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PHOENIX — Even with the homer heroics of sluggers like Aaron Judge and Albert Pujols, Major League Baseball wasn’t able to coax fans to ballparks at pre-pandemic levels this season, though attendance did jump substantially from the COVID-19 affected campaign in 2021.

The 30 MLB teams drew nearly 64.6 million fans for the regular season that ended Wednesday, which is up from the 45.3 million who attended games in 2021, according to baseball-reference.com. This year’s numbers are still down from the 68.5 million who attended games in 2019, which was the last season that wasn’t affected by the pandemic.

The 111-win Los Angeles Dodgers led baseball with 3.86 million fans flocking to Dodger Stadium for an average of 47,672 per contest. The Oakland Athletics – who lost 102 games, play in an aging stadium and are the constant subject of relocation rumors – finished last, drawing just 787,902 fans for an average of less than 10,000 per game.

The St. Louis Cardinals finished second, drawing 3.32 million fans. They were followed by the Yankees (3.14 million), defending World Series champion Braves (3.13 million) and Padres (2.99 million).

The Toronto Blue Jays saw the biggest jump in attendance, rising from 805,901 fans to about 2.65 million. They were followed by the Cardinals, Yankees, Mariners, Dodgers, and Mets, which all drew more than a million fans more than in 2021.

The Rangers and Reds were the only teams to draw fewer fans than in 2021.

Only the Rangers started the 2021 season at full capacity and all 30 teams weren’t at 100% until July. No fans were allowed to attend regular season games in 2020.

MLB attendance had been declining slowly for years – even before the pandemic – after hitting its high mark of 79.4 million in 2007. This year’s 64.6 million fans is the fewest in a non-COVID-19 season since the sport expanded to 30 teams in 1998.

The lost attendance has been balanced in some ways by higher viewership on the sport’s MLB.TV streaming service. Viewers watched 11.5 billion minutes of content in 2022, which was a record high and up nearly 10% from 2021.