Thursday, August 15, 2013

Replays? Yes! Challenge System? No!


           By Ross Newhan

           I believe in the increased use of replays, as likely to be implemented in baseball next season.

           Another year of too many blown calls demands it, and, if you are going to use any available means--such as evidence buying and flipping a potential felon by threatening him with legal suits--to eliminate drug cheats and level the playing field, then it is time to broaden the use of replays in an attempt to eliminate umpiring mistakes.

           Those mistakes, as often acknowledged by umpires in post-game comments after reviewing replays, can ultimately cost a team millions of dollars in playoff compensation

           And technological advancements certainly make broader use more feasible.

           However, under the system proposed by a committee of Atlanta president John Schuerholz and former managers Tony LaRussa and Joe Torre, a manager would be limited to one challenge of a reviewable play (it isn't clear which plays will be reviewable beyond the current border calls on home runs) through six innings and two more through the end of the game. If a manager wins his challenge, he would retain the challenge, but the six inning challenge would not carry over.

         For baseball to recognize the need, reliability and improved speed in delivering replays at full speed, slow motion and stop action is a huge step, but I don't agree with the challenge system and I don't agree with a limit on challenges.

        Yes, the pace of games is important, and ultimately the time of games is as well, but getting it right should be the bottom line, and the time of games, when replays were introduced in the current and limited form, did not change appreciably.

        The proposed system would have a former umpire or a team of umpires reviewing plays and making the call on a secure line from New York.

        On reviewable plays--and, again, we don't know what those will be--a manager should have the right to seek a review without limit on those requests, and the official or officials in New York should have the right to overrule a decision on a reviewable play even if a manager does not seek a review.

       The challenge limit leaves in place the possibility that an umpiring mistake can still decide the outcome in those cases where a manager has already employed his three challenges.

       Of course, without knowing the full range of reviewable plays or the full authority of the review official or officials in New York, it is difficult to adequately address the concept.

      The issue of reviewable plays must be negotiated with the players union, and the overall concept will require approval of the umpires union, which is believed willing to accept an increase in the use of replay, most arbiters recognizing that if it helps them get it right, that if it helps reduce the number of prolonged, emotional arguments that often carry over, and that if it helps them avoid the possibility of  widespread firings stemming from the critical mistakes that too often have dotted the major league landscape in recent years, then, indeed, why wait until 11 before going to the film?    




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