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Expanded replay for 2013 to include umpires “at a central location”

May 29, 2012, 2:30 PM EDT

Joyce blown call

The new Collective Bargaining Agreement is supposed to include expanded use of instant replay. It wasn’t able to be implemented for 2012, however, because no one was clear on how the logistics would work. Jayson Stark was on ESPN Radio this morning, however, and he says that the league, the union and the umps have an idea in the works that could go online in 2013. Via Business Insider:

  • A group of umpires will watch games from a central location
  • On plays that are “clearly wrong” the group would then signal the umpires at the game and let them know there is an obvious call that needs to be changed

As has been previously reported, the expanded replay would be used for home runs, boundary calls and catches vs. traps, initially. After that, Stark said, it could be opened up to “all sorts of calls,” assuming the kinks were worked out as applied to limited calls.

The new wrinkle here is the umpires at a “central location.” While this is not quite what I envisioned — I like the idea of a fifth ump on every crew, stationed in a booth at the game — it is preferable to any challenge system or a system like the one we have now in which home run calls are reviewed via the umps leaving the field for a few moments.

The benefit to what Stark is describing: the idea that someone can just call in and overrule something if it’s simply a bad call as opposed to integrating replay into game strategy like football does. There is also a speed enhancement keeping the umps on the field. For the league: the benefit of not having to hire 15 new umpires to man the current crews.

The downside: depending on how many umps are at this “central location,” is it not possible that calls could be missed or that reviews could take longer? There are sometimes 15 games going on at once. What if there are multiple obviously wrong calls at once? It also seems that a disembodied voice from HQ overruling calls could lead to some resentment and ultimately problems between the field umps and the replay umps. ┬áIf you had a replay ump at each park, as part of the regular umpiring crew, even rotating through on-field assignments like umps on a crew do now, there is an instant parity and respect between roles.

But let’s not make the perfect the enemy of the good. If MLB is going to go with a replay regime that (a) involves eyes in the sky making common sense reversals of bad on-field calls; that (b) could eventually be expanded into “all sorts of calls,” that’s progress of a major kind.

  1. illcomm - May 29, 2012 at 2:35 PM

    like the concept of a centralized review. speeds up the game. but I’m kind of gonna miss the OLD SCHOOL baseball.

    • colehamelz - May 29, 2012 at 3:00 PM

      You and me both, buddy.

      Let’s say I’m out there in a tight game, batter gets lucky and hits a flyball that carries well down the line, the ump calls it foul like he’s supposed to. Just a strike on the count and I’m about to put this guy away…but then all of a sudden you’re telling me some guy with a walkie talkie is gonna tell the home plate ump to give that sumbitch a HR for the foul ball he just hit?

      Hells nah. You better believe I’ll be drilling that guy next time he’s in the box.

      And actually, even if a HR call gets switched to a foul ball, that will chap my Old School ass too. It would probably happen in a situation where I’m just out there pitching to the scoreboard, feeling a nice groove that one long ball aint gonna disrupt, and then we got the walkie talkie shennanigans again. Slowing down the game and all that nonsense. Batter will probably be pissed too about losing a HR but he better get back in the box so I can plant one between his numbers. A little Old School Yin to the walkie talkie Yang.

  2. normcash - May 29, 2012 at 2:43 PM

    The NHL uses a central “war room” in Toronto, but only for disputed goals, I believe.
    Boundary calls, traps, fan intereference should the only times replays get used—traps
    including a call like the one in Boston yesterday when the umps blew the call on the Aviles
    strike out…I’m a little dubious about using it otherwise—bang-bang plays at first, checked swings,
    that sort of thing….

    • owine - May 29, 2012 at 2:58 PM

      Will this be the fWAR or bWAR room?

    • natstowngreg - May 29, 2012 at 4:44 PM

      It would be difficult for the NHL to go beyond disputed goals because so much of the officials’ work involves judgment calls. It would be difficult for a war room to second-guess whether an interference penalty was called correctly, for example. Same with MLB umps and ball-strike calls. You’re not going to be able to replay everything.

      IMHO, the war room approach works well for the NHL. While I agree with Craig that it would be better to have the extra ump at the game, I think the war room could work for MLB if there are enough guys in the room. That’s one of the things they would need to work out as they experiment with expanded replay.

      Either way, it’s nice to see movement on this front, at last.

  3. hiltonandastoria - May 29, 2012 at 2:43 PM

    The NHL does this with a group in Toronto reviewing plays

  4. silversun60 - May 29, 2012 at 2:44 PM

    I wonder how the on field umps will find out they have been over-ruled. Maybe a not so slight electric shock.

    “Why is that umpire convulsing?”

    “Bad call must’ve been overturned”

  5. heyblueyoustink - May 29, 2012 at 2:46 PM

    Mordor, I envision the central location to be Minas Morgul like.

  6. steelymcbeam6 - May 29, 2012 at 2:50 PM

    I love baseball but they have really been behind on taking advantage of today’s technology and has refused to be progressive with the sport. I want the players to decide the outcome not bad calls, which there have been a lot more of in recent years. Having it done the right well could really improve the brand of baseball. I respect what the refs do but some calls are just Impossible to get the call right on. I’ve never been the type to get mad if a call didnt go my way as long as its one of Those plays that could have gone either way but adding on to how they use instant replay could make the refs jobs a lot easier. Fans won’t care if they get the play wrong as long as it gets corrected thru replay.

    • joshcarey - May 29, 2012 at 5:16 PM

      It says something about the cantankerousness of baseball fans that the above comment has more thumbs-down and thumbs-up.

  7. jimw81 - May 29, 2012 at 2:54 PM

    Whats over/under of calls by cb bucknor gets turn over?

    • WhenMattStairsIsKing - May 29, 2012 at 4:28 PM


  8. WhenMattStairsIsKing - May 29, 2012 at 2:57 PM

    It’s a good initial idea. Let’s see how it develops.

  9. steve7921 - May 29, 2012 at 3:00 PM

    Biggest downside is that Joe West and Bob Davidson might get tired having to answer that call every other inning!!

  10. Kevin S. - May 29, 2012 at 3:09 PM

    I’m guessing MLB will have a min-wage schlub watching each game and a handful of umpires ready to be called over to make a judgment if something looks questionable. The fifth umpire in the rotation would have been preferable precisely because it’s clearly one of their own overruling the call (even if the replay officials wind up being an emeritus position for long-time umps), but this is still a very, very good thing.

    Also, you know somebody is going to be keeping a tally of how often each umpire is overturned. Sounds like a Wezen-ball special to me.

  11. mattintoledo - May 29, 2012 at 3:18 PM

    I was wondering why this wasn’t bigger news. It sounds like a very reasonable way to handle things, assuming they can’t get overloaded as Craig mentioned.

    My only suggestion is every time fans in the stadium don’t like the call from the NY office, the home team just flashes on the screen a photo of Todd Helton four feet off the bag while Welke calls the runner out.

  12. nogoodtomedead - May 29, 2012 at 3:52 PM

    I like the central review plan, like the NHL’s- wish the NFL would do it to to speed up the process. But the question becomes, what is a ‘clearly wrong’ call and what isn’t?

    • natstowngreg - May 29, 2012 at 6:45 PM

      One way to deal with that would be to apply the NFL’s standard — the call on the field has to be proven wrong. That way, endless time isn’t spent reviewing whether the ball beat the runner to first, or was a “tie goes to the runner” situation.

  13. vanmorrissey - May 29, 2012 at 4:45 PM

    Would think you might have a group of three so in case of disputes put it up for a vote and majority rules. About time they get it right like hockey, which has not been slowed down one bit by use of replay.

  14. Matt Aromando - May 29, 2012 at 4:55 PM

    They should just have the MLB Fan Cave review all the plays.

  15. leftywildcat - May 29, 2012 at 9:51 PM

    I agree that it does not sound quite perfect, but I sure agree that it’s a huge step in the right direction.

    If this was in place a year or two ago, there would be one more perfect game in the record books.

  16. slavetothetrafficlight - May 29, 2012 at 11:04 PM


  17. gloccamorra - May 29, 2012 at 11:29 PM

    I gotta go with Tony DeMarco’s suggestion of putting an umpire in charge of official scoring AND replay in the press box. But MLB can save money over hiring an 15 extra umpires.

    Each home club pays baseball writers $80-$100 per game to be official scorer. That’s a conflict of interest, since they write about, develop friendships with and criticize the players in print and pixels. They can hang an error on a fielder, deny batters hits and inflate ERAs.

    Just make ballclubs hire retired umpires instead. No extra money, and the umpires on the field won’t be so angry if one of their own is looking over their shoulders: they might want some extra coin when they retire too.

  18. catcher50 - May 30, 2012 at 11:37 AM

    I think that there is a system that should be tried before a truly expanded replay. Simply add 2 more umpires to a crew. They would work the fair/foul lines. The following is my reasoning:

    1. It would give umpires actual experience at doing foul lines, which they don’t have now, when the playoffs come.

    2. It would cut down on the more obvious non-Ball/Strike mistakes. They would be right there for fair/foul calls, beyond 1st base. With no general responsibility for base calls, they would be tasked with running to be closer to catch/traps made by L/R fielders. It would allow a more comfortable rotation for base umpires, so that the 2nd base umpire could (he should, now) run out to cover the catch/no catch in CF.

    3. There would never be a major league game with a 3 man crew, because an umpire got sick just before a game, or injured during a game. The fifth umpire would be at the expected fair/foul line (i.e. left for right handers, etc.)

    4. Most important, only two of the umpires would ever work the plate. The others would always work the bases. Most umpires (and I speak from decades of experience, albeit at lower levels) are superior at either base work or plate work. The difference is significant. This would make for much more accurate plate calls, on a regular basis, and cut down on the Pitch Trak pointed out mistakes.

  19. rico7207 - May 30, 2012 at 1:41 PM

    I just may start watching the game again if they actually bring in a proper replay system in to get the calls right. I do not care how long it takes, just get it right and bring back the games integrity. Right now it looks like the umps bet on these games and officiate accordingly.

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