By Adam Kozak
Major League Baseball will be making a drastic change to their instant-replay system starting next season.
MLB’s Players Association and the World Umpires Association have given their approval from Major League Baseball to implement an upgrade to their instant-replay system, which includes reviewing stadium boundary calls, forced plays, tag plays, and more. Managers will be able to challenge one play per game, and after the seventh inning the Crew Chief, who acts as a supervisor of all in-game umpires and the league, will be able to review plays under his own discretion.
MLB was the last major North American sport to institute instant-replay in 2008, when they allowed the Crew Chief to review questionable home runs. Still, some fans don’t see the changes to be necessary. Andrew Stoeten, blogger at Drunk Jays Fans, says he isn’t thrilled that the game will be pausing even more.
“It’s going to cut down on fights between managers and umpires which is actually kind of a shame. It’s an entertainment product, but it’s so long and slow sometimes. I’m skeptical.”
Plays that get challenged will be up for review by the Replay Command Center in New York, where MLB umpires will be on standby to judge calls. A new feature is that all close calls will be shown on the Jumbotron within each stadium, so fans can see the play and judge for themselves. This was not allowed previously.
One element of the game that will not be up for review is questioning balls and strikes. The strike zone will remain up to the discretion of the home plate umpire.
William Bargel, Baseball Ontario referee and York U men’s baseball player, says it’s unlikely to ever happen.
“When it comes to strikes and balls, you’re never going to have instant replay, because in that case they’re going to be arguing every strike or ball.”
Stoeten is also in favour of abstaining from strike zone calls. “There’s a beauty in how the strike zone doesn’t work, and how it’s not even a tangible thing in reality, it’s just an idea of a strike zone. It’s kind of a cool, weird quirk of baseball. I don’t worry about umps making mistakes, I worry more about 4-5 hour games”
Jay Stenhouse, VP of Communications for the Toronto Blue Jays, says maintaining a positive fan experience is chief in all decisions.
“The Toronto Blue Jays will take advantage of the time we have prior to opening day to review our in-stadium use of replays moving forward. Obviously, the concern for the fans is an important aspect”.