During the winter meetings, there was a lot of talk about implementing instant replay for Major League Baseball. Could replay be ready for the start of the 2014 season? What exactly will the rules be for “challenging” plays?
The first problem has already risen for replay in baseball. The MLB wants to start using replay in the upcoming season. The problem is, they have absolutely nothing figured out. The rules committee is still trying to decide the number of challenges for managers and what plays can and cannot be reviewed. Why rush the replay system? Just wait until 2015 to get all of the kinks out and implant it then.
To the next problem; Everyone stealing is going to be safe. In the unofficial unwritten rules of baseball, if the ball beats you to a bag, you’re going to be called out. There is no problem with this rule, but replay is going to completely change it. We all know, a player may get a fingertip on the bag before he is tagged a good percent of the time. A manager can challenge the play, and frame by frame will show that the player is safe. This is also going to happen on plays at third, and even at home.
Now, to the “neighborhood” play during a double play. Anyone who watches baseball knows that the shortstop receiving a flip from the second baseman will not stay on (or even near) the bag. Again, this is an accepted unwritten rule, but will replay have to change this? In my opinion, baseball is going to make this unreviewable keeping player safety in mind.
What about all of the bang bang plays at first? Not only are umpires going to be looking at the ball going in the glove and the runners foot, but there is going to have to be an exact rule on what a “catch” is. Does the first baseman catch it when the ball is secured in the palm? Or is it when the ball crosses the plane of the glove going into the webbing? Don’t forget that sometimes the ball wiggles around in the webbing after a catch. I’m afraid baseball is going to get too technical and turn into the NFL with all of the catching rules.
The ruling that will be the biggest mess are plays where a catch is challenged and there are players on base. This can be easier explained in a scenario: A fly ball is hit to deep right center field in AT&T Park. A diving catch appears to be caught, but the team batting decides to challenge the catch. The umpires agree that a catch was not made. This is where the madness happens. How many bases should the batter get? Deep right center field in AT&T park has been home to inside the parkers, so should the batter be awarded home? What if it is Prince Fielder running? What is the arm strength of the center fielder? How many bases should the base runners be awarded? There is going to be too much opinion and controversy in plays like this.
Replay is going to allow for icing the pitcher. Yes I said it, icing the pitcher. Here’s a scenario: Everyone saw Koji Uehara pitch in the World Series. Uehara is now known for getting into a groove and pitching at a quick rate. Need a way to get him out of his groove? Challenge a foul ball that was 20 feet to the left of the line. The umpires will have to review it and get the ruling from New York. Waiting even two minutes for the challenge can take the adrenaline and groove out of a pitcher. It will be a sad day when a game of baseball has to come down to icing the closer.
Notice how I never said anything about the speed of the game. Do you really think baseball wants to speed up the game? Ends of games will be played over scheduled programs with all of the regional television deals. Money is to be made. Baseball makes money for every hour it is televised. Short and sweet, but don’t expect any rules to speed up the game coming any time soon.