One of the most significant MLB rule changes in recent years has been the expanded MLB replay rules that were implemented in 2014. Baseball has always been a game of rules and traditions, written and unwritten, passed down for generations. Lots of things about the game have changed since the first Major League pitch was thrown in 1869, but this one challenges the flow of the game as well as some age-old traditions.
MLB Instant Replay Expansion
Replays have been used since 2008 in Major League Baseball to review significant calls such as fan interference on home runs for Post-Season and All-Star games. When first introduced, these reviews had to be initiated by the umpire crew chief. The expansion to this rule was introduced in 2014 and allows each manager one review before the 6th inning of all regular season games, as well as another review from the seventh inning on, but only if the first challenge results in an overturned call. The umpire crew chief can still initiate a review at any time for certain calls. Official MLB Replay Rules
I think it’s great to see Major League Baseball evolve and ensure that the right calls are made, resulting in correct and fair outcomes. I’d be the first to complain if a bad call didn’t go in the favor of my favorite team. But it’s definitely changed the pace and temperament of the game.
MLB Pace of Game
Watch as Phillies outfielder, Odubel Herrera, gets called out trying to beat out a routine ground ball to shortstop. His first reaction is to call himself safe and point into the Phillies dugout signaling to manager Pete Mackanon to look at the replay.
The manager then has to decide whether or not he should use his challenge which usually involves the bench coach getting on the phone with someone upstairs who’s already looking at a replay. Once they do decide to use the challenge, the entire game stops!
Cue this strange scene where a pair of umpires and an MLB.TV intern look like they are suddenly stranded on another planet trying to communicate back to Earth with some bulky satellite communication device. Couldn’t the crew chief just have a cell phone on him and get a text that says “safe” or “out”?
The umpires aren’t even deciding anything, they are just on the phone with someone in New York City who’s looking at the replay and making the final decision whether or not to overturn the initial call on the field. Is it really necessary to have two of them standing there listening to confirm the call? Does the MLB.TV intern at least get paid to stand there like that? It seems like a very unnecessary production.
There were a total of 4 replay reviews in this Sunday afternoon Phillies vs. Nationals game alone. You can hear the frustration in the announcer’s voice when he realizes they have to sit through another one in the bottom of the 9th. As this National’s announcer mentions, it’s not helping the pace of game issue which was something MLB was starting to do a decent job of addressing.
Another aspect of the game that will be interesting to watch evolve is the tradition of the manager vs. umpire argument. If replays are going to fix bad calls, will heated discussions between managers, players, and umpires fade out as well? It’s been part of the game forever and there’s an art to arguing a call in a way that can motivate an entire team and stadium of fans. It’s always fun to watch a manager or player get heated and argue a call. You never know what’s going to happen!
Hopefully that tradition continues to be part of the game as the MLB replay rules evolve and become more efficient. The technology is available and the process definitely needs to be sped up in a way that has less impact on game flow.