Baseball To Bring In Replay Challenges In 2014 With Bizarre Wrinkle

Major League Baseball made a major announcement today: starting in 2014, managers will be able to challenge certain plays. The system is logical and sensible...except for one weird wrinkle.

Major League Baseball made a major announcement today: starting in 2014, managers will be able to challenge certain plays via replay review. The full details have not been released, but Atlanta Braves President John Schuerholz, who is on the replay committee that came up with the proposal said that 89% of incorrect calls would be reviewable. We can safely assume that ball/strike calls will not be reviewable by replay, but out/safe calls, fair/foul and trap/catch calls are probably all fair game for replay (a “trap” is when a fielder appears to catch a ball just before it hits the ground, but actually snags it just after a bounce). The home run challenge rule, in which umpires may choose to review whether a home run occurred or not, will be grandfathered into the new system. The reviews will all happen at an office in New York, similar to the NHL which does all of its goal challenge reviews in Toronto.

And then there’s this strange wrinkle: Managers get one replay challenge through the first six innings, then two challenges for the final three innings. Managers do not lose a replay challenge that goes their way, and an unused challenge does not carry over to the post-sixth inning part of the game.

Okay, what? Expanded replay: great, it’s silly that people watching at home know the correct call seconds later but umpires don’t. The challenge system: great. It adds drama and strategy to the game. The system of one challenge for the first two thirds of the game, two for the last part…baffling.

Jayson Stark of ESPN reports that there was concern over calls near the end of the game which could determine the game’s outcome in a direct way. Baseball considered football’s system of having referees trigger all referees at the end of the game.

Here’s why this is sort of ridiculous: runs in the fourth inning are worth the same as those in the eighth inning. The idea that the final innings are when the magic happens is a result of selective memory which biases the big dramatic game-ending moments and forgets all the times that the score stayed 6-2 from the fourth inning onward.

Wouldn’t it be more logical to issue one challenge every three innings, and have challenges “expire” after six innings? This provides extra replay challenges for extra innings, doesn’t allow a manager to stock more than two at a time, and treats all sections of the game equally. Boom. It’s no real surprise that months of negotiations among baseball execs came up with something so weird and lopsided, but I didn’t expect to be able to come up with (at least in my opinion), a better option.

What do you think, reader? Are you happy about expanded replay, and do you prefer the MLB or Owen challenge system?

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