Walter Mencken 6:15 p.m., Feb. 28
MLB owners move to expand instant replay
In a move which many in baseball find historic, MLB owners look toward a replay system you might see in a Chargers game this season
After two days of the August Major League Baseball owners meeting, Commissioner Bud Selig announced that owners have agreed to expand its instant replay beyond what is covered now, which is limited to whether or not a ball is a home run – either fair or foul or over the fence as marked according to ball park regulations. Current replay rules can also be used to determine fan interference in such circumstances.
The new replay rules are vastly different in scope, and will be formally voted on in November. MLB players – through the MLB Player’s Association – and MLB umpires, will also vote on the new replay rules.
Until more details are released, which isn’t likely until November when the new rules are expected to be accepted by all parties, there are a lot more questions than answers. According to the Associated Press, the following rules will apply, in a general sense:
• Balls and strikes will not be reviewable.
• Managers will be able to challenge three plays or calls per game – one may be made through six innings and two others may be made from the seventh inning on.
• Current replay rules will be grandfathered in (meaning, perhaps, that managers do not have to use a challenge in order to have such replays reviewed).
• Managers may not argue with umpires on plays eligible to be challenged (the late Billy Martin is rolling over in his grave).
• Non-reviewable plays may be still argued by the manager.
This seems to be gleaned from the NFL’s current replay rules. Does the manager step out of the dugout and throw a red flag when he wishes to challenge? Can you imagine that?
And while this proposal, which seems likely to be accepted seeing as how Selig pretty much imposes his will on the game as of late, will take out a component of baseball that has been around since its inception, can you imagine managers not rushing out of the dugout to argue a call now and again?
Certainly, it gives a manager three sharp teeth per game if they need them, but it also takes away other teeth that are used regularly by managers. A manager will go out and argue a call for several reasons that might have little to do with getting a bad call overturned.
According to the broad rules as we’re learning about them now, this tool that managers often use – running out of the dugout and getting into the face of an umpire – will be extremely limited. So, if a player hotly argues a call at first base and the manager jumps out there to deflect the player away from the umpire to keep the player from getting tossed, the manager could get tossed, or have to throw a red flag (or whatever method is used to challenge a play) in order to avoid ejection – even if the manager didn’t think the call was incorrect.
Or, sometimes a manager will argue a call simply to fire up his team. And sometimes, managers will willingly get ejected from a game for the same purpose. So, if arguing a call that is reviewable and then not challenging the call isn’t permitted, is there going to be a fine or suspension for doing so?
The consensus is that 89% of all plays are reviewable. Selig has gone on record as saying that his worry about instituting a more comprehensive replay system would also cause the games to go longer than they already are. And MLB games, on average, have increased in length.
In 2004, MLB declared that its target for the average length of a game would be 2:45. The current average is around three hours. There are rules in place that would keep the game shorter, but they are largely ignored by umpires.
Two such rules involve how much time a pitcher and hitter gets between pitches or stepping into the batter’s box.
6.02 (a) The batter shall take his position in the batter’s box promptly when it is his time at bat. (b) The batter shall not leave his position in the batter’s box after the pitcher comes to Set Position, or starts his windup.
This rule is never enforced. Watch your next game and take note, between pitches gloves are adjusted, helmets adjusted, all sorts of shenanigans take place. And over and over again, the batter steps out after the pitcher comes set, and often this happens while the pitcher is in his windup, and the umpire still allows the time out. He is supposed to call a strike when this rule has been violated.
Pitchers have this rule in effect:
8.04 When the bases are unoccupied, the pitcher shall deliver the ball to the batter within 12 seconds after he receives the ball. Each time the pitcher delays the game by violating this rule, the umpire shall call “Ball.”
The 12-second timing starts when the pitcher is in possession of the ball and the batter is in the box, alert to the pitcher. The timing stops when the pitcher releases the ball.
The intent of this rule is to avoid unnecessary delays. The umpire shall insist that the catcher return the ball promptly to the pitcher, and that the pitcher take his position on the rubber promptly. Obvious delay by the pitcher should instantly be penalized by the umpire.
Be my guest, count how many times in a game this rule is violated. In fact, I have yet to ever see it enforced. Notoriously slow pitchers often take more than two minutes between pitches, and they are never even warned about it.
So, Mr. Selig, if this challenge method of replay that you seem to be happy with is an attempt to institute replay in order to correct a wrong while not lengthening an already marathon of a game, you might be taking the wrong path here. First, since the umpiring has become so poor – and it has over the past few years – how about firing some umpires who are notoriously bad at their jobs?
And start shortening the game by insisting that umpires regulate the two rules that would keep it short. Your job is to do what’s in the best interest of the game, Bud. While intelligently implementing some sort of instant replay that works for the best interest of everyone – keeping core elements of the game intact, like managers arguing calls from time-to-time, it seems that the goal here is to turn MLB into the NFL.
I’m sure that MLB owners would love NFL revenue. So, you’re going to put pads on the players next, maybe institute a halftime show during World Series games? Try fixing parts of the game that are broken according to the existing rules, Mr. Selig, before you blindly screw the game up so badly that no one will enjoy it as baseball, but as some deformed hybrid that no one wants to watch.