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MLB’s proposed expanded replay to include a challenge system. This is idiotic.

Aug 15, 2013, 9:34 AM EDT

We learned yesterday that Major League Baseball is considering adding expanded replay for the playoffs this year. Eric Fisher of Sports Business Journal reports a critical detail. A very, very stupid critical detail:

Why must there be a challenge system? The entire point of replay is to get calls right, not to only get calls right when a manager decides to employ a certain strategy. Put in a challenge system and the manager has to decide: “hmmm, should I say something about that obvious mistake the umpires just made, or should I let if pass in case there’s another mistake later?”  It’s a total passing of the buck.

It also adds more of what MLB is trying to get rid of with replay: managers on the field, interrupting the flow of the game, arguing things. Only now instead of calls they’ll be arguing about challenges.  And if a manager uses up his challenge because of earlier screwups, he’ll just come out and argue about later screwups the old fashioned way. This also creates a greater potential for even more adversarial umpire-manager-player interactions, as it not only increases the amount of managers and players second guessing umps, it DEMANDS that they do, which will certainly impact umpire habits and demeanor.

Take some friggin’ ownership over your officials, Major League Baseball. Make getting calls right their responsibility, not the manager’s responsibility.  This is absolutely stupid.

UPDATE: Baseball has made a statement about this system. The statement may be stupider than the proposal itself. I take a whack at it here.

  1. sdelmonte - Aug 15, 2013 at 9:38 AM

    The challenge system seems to work in football. I’m not saying it should exist in baseball. But there is a model that makes good use of it.

    • jerpicc - Aug 15, 2013 at 9:47 AM

      the NFL Challenge System also reviews every scoring play and turnover, as well as everything under 2 minutes each half without any Manager intervention. or in other words, ya know, the most important plays.

      • Glenn - Aug 15, 2013 at 10:38 AM

        The review of the scoring play still needs work. They don’t review non-scoring plays that would have been scores if the correct call was made.

      • ryanrockzzz - Aug 15, 2013 at 10:45 AM

        I dont think that’s the point the poster above was making. There are many coache’s challanges each year that change the game and swing momentum. Sometimes they are the most important plays.

        If each manager gets one challenge per game, I don’t see any atrocity in that at all. It’s nice in theory that we want to put all of the attention and responsibility on the umpires and the people above them, but why not have a check and balance system in case they are inept…which probably will happen.

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Aug 15, 2013 at 9:53 AM

      Wait you think the NFL system works? How many times have you seen a game where, due to a bad call earlier in the game, the coach has to make a decision to use his last challenge because he won’t get another one the rest of the game? It’s dumb that a bad call may not be overturned because of a previous bad call.

      • jerpicc - Aug 15, 2013 at 10:06 AM

        the NFL system isn’t perfect, but 2012 was the first year every scoring play and turnover got reviewed, and it cleaned up that issue very well. the NFL plays are also much harder to review (where was the ball when his shin might have been down?), whereas baseball viewers at home known instantly that trapped balls and safe/out calls are incorrect after the first replay.

      • scoutsaysweitersisabust - Aug 15, 2013 at 10:10 AM

        What the NFL needs to do is remove challenges completely and use the same system for reviewing touchdowns for all calls. Get the coaches the hell out of the system, and leave the calls up to the umpires. You know, the supposed experts. The TD system works really well. The challenge system is terrible.

      • DelawarePhilliesFan - Aug 15, 2013 at 10:17 AM

        Exactly – not to mention there is this added quirk. in the NFL, you have to use challenges to get a call overturned that even the ref’s know will probably be over turned. For example, if a runner is ruled down by contact on a potential fumble, no one can challenge that the play was a fumlel. The whistle blew, so the play was dead and you can not challenge. So if there is any chance at all that the ball was fumbled, they just let the play continue knowing the coach can challange that ruling. Teams then have to burn a challenge just to get what the ref figures may have happened anyway.

        Trust me, that will happen in baseball too – i.e. Umps will call close line calls fair to allow the play to continue, because a foul call can not be undone. And to some extent, it is understandable. But no team should have to burn a challeneg to get that call corrected

    • 1943mrmojorisin1971 - Aug 15, 2013 at 9:55 AM

      The NHL system works as well or better than the NFL one. Guys watching every play of every game on an HD screen and intervening when a review is needed.

      Oh, and they also keep track of who is making the calls and who is missing them, something the MLB should most certainly do (and maybe they could even use that info to improve the quality of the umping).

      • Bob Loblaw - Aug 15, 2013 at 10:03 AM

        The NHL only reviews goals. They don’t review things like roughing, offsides, holding, etc. if baseball added an overhead camera to only review plays at the plate, people would probably have a problem with that. You can’t please everyone.

      • 1943mrmojorisin1971 - Aug 15, 2013 at 10:07 AM

        They are looking at everything, at least for the performance reviews, but they only intervene for goals. It could be adjusted to work for the MLB but they’re obviously not interested in a functional replay system. Obviously there will always be complainers, but they could at least try to get it right.

      • Bob Loblaw - Aug 15, 2013 at 10:09 AM

        Baseball looks at everything for performance reviews of umpires too.

      • 1943mrmojorisin1971 - Aug 15, 2013 at 10:20 AM

        Lot of good that does, eh? My point is there are a couple benefits to real-time review in a centralized location that the MLB could take advantage of.

    • scoutsaysweitersisabust - Aug 15, 2013 at 10:08 AM

      Yea, it’s basically setup to punish teams for correctly identifying umpiring mistakes. “You identified a botched call? Sorry, that’s your one challenge, next time you have to sit there and take it.” And then a manager is forced to decide if the one blown call is important enough to challenge, or is it possible that a worse call is just around the corner?

  2. tbutler704 - Aug 15, 2013 at 9:40 AM

    I dunno man….sounds like you have some serious status quo bias cooking here. Helping to fix some of these terrible calls with one or two challenges per game wouldn’t result in much beyond fixing a blown call by an umpire.

    • dan1111 - Aug 15, 2013 at 10:02 AM

      Huh? Status quo bias? Craig has been a strong and consistent advocate for instant replay in baseball. Just search this site for “instant replay” if you don’t believe me.

      This isn’t about whether replay should exist but about whether it should be done stupidly. This isn’t just speculation. There is a working example of a challenge system, and we know exactly what sort of effects it will have. There are also working examples of other ways of implementing this.

      • tbutler704 - Aug 15, 2013 at 10:09 AM

        You could be right, I’m not going to research some guy’s opinions however lol.

        I’m in favor of any system that will fix the 1 or 2 truly awful blown calls in a baseball game. Whether its by using a couple challenges or replay like NHL….I don’t have a strong opinion about these minor details.

  3. The Dangerous Mabry - Aug 15, 2013 at 9:41 AM

    This is nearly as stupid as the challenge system in Tennis, where the magic computer knows whether a ball was in our out instantly, but won’t make the call unless a linesperson gets it wrong AND a player challenges it. That’s the most ridiculous challenge system.

    Baseball won’t be far behind, though, if challenges are part of the system.

  4. gigab0t - Aug 15, 2013 at 9:45 AM

    [considers commenting on instant replay in baseball]

  5. fndan9 - Aug 15, 2013 at 9:45 AM

    So every close play is automatically reviewed? Enjoy those 7 hour games, folks.

    • The Dangerous Mabry - Aug 15, 2013 at 9:48 AM

      Every goal in the NHL is reviewed. This has added a sum total of approximately zero seconds to the average game time in the NHL (and that’s not just because there aren’t a ton of goals).

      • fndan9 - Aug 15, 2013 at 9:55 AM

        Think about how many close plays there are in every baseball game…you think the umps should gather around a monitor for each one? Then try to figure out where all the runners belong if there is a reversal? I guess it will be good for beer sales.

      • The Dangerous Mabry - Aug 15, 2013 at 9:57 AM

        Most people think the umps should never gather around a monitor. There’s no reason the on-field umps are better at watching TV than someone who’s off the field, already in front of a TV.

    • paperlions - Aug 15, 2013 at 9:54 AM

      Yeah, because there isn’t already a shit-ton of dead time during a baseball game in which a guy in the booth with a monitor could review and correct the call. Arguments with managers and batting glove adjustments take up more time than it would take to get calls right…heck, most of the time the viewers at home know if a call was right or not before the next pitch is thrown.

      • jarathen - Aug 15, 2013 at 10:13 AM

        Curse baseball’s lightning-fast pace! If only they had the time!

    • imnotyourbuddyguy - Aug 15, 2013 at 10:56 AM

      Ever see how much time is taken ups when a manager argues a call?

  6. alexo0 - Aug 15, 2013 at 9:48 AM

    MLB is incapable of taking ownership over umpires because of their union. Umpires are not required to take ownership over their work because of their union. With no one taking ownership over anything, increased on-field chaos is the only possible result

  7. lilprofsports - Aug 15, 2013 at 9:48 AM

    I agree that replay will lead to more people complaining about the pace of the game. So two suggestions:

    1. Replays should be handled by a dedicated 5th umpire, so he can start watching the play right away, rather than the inevitable delay for the field umpires to confer, the manager to trot onto the field, the manager/crew chief conversation, the umpire sauntering off the field,…
    2. There needs to be a good disincentive to keep managers from challenging just for the sake of challenging. Timeouts don’t work, because there are infinite timeouts in baseball. Now we’re concerned about pace, and the other thing that really slows the game down is pitching changes. Therefore, if a manager loses a challenge, one relief pitcher (of the losing manager’s choice) gets ejected. There. One fewer pitching change.

    I mean, it still doesn’t solve the problem that a good chunk of challengeable calls are boundary calls (fair/foul and HR), similar to what Hawk-Eye is used for in tennis, that could be automated and instantaneous. Come on, Hawk-Eye, get back on that horse and try again.

    • flamethrower101 - Aug 15, 2013 at 10:55 AM

      Amazing. You can up with an amazing replay system in who knows how long, and MLB has taken nearly forever to do this. And they’ll STILL get it wrong.

  8. MattJanik - Aug 15, 2013 at 9:51 AM

    Leave it to baseball to expand replay, but completely eff it up while they do it. Challenges are AWFUL in the NFL and, guess what, they’ll be awful in MLB. Getting the call right should NOT be part of the strategy of the damn game. It should be common sense! Why the hell can’t leagues figure this out?

    The NHL, for all it’s ridiculous problems and haphazard publicity strategy, is the only league with a replay system that makes any damn sense. “There’s a chance we may have screwed it up. How about we take another look at it?”

    Meanwhile, the NFL (and possibly MLB now) is: “There’s a chance we may have screwed it up. Do you want us to take another look at it, or are you pretty sure we’re gonna find a way to screw up even worse later? Oh, you challenged a call earlier that we actually got right? Fuck you then, you can deal with getting screwed here.”

    This is so, so, sooooo unbelievably dumb.

    • MattJanik - Aug 15, 2013 at 10:11 AM

      “Kirk Gibson has thrown the red water cooler on the field. We’re unsure if he’s challenging the call or if he’s just a psychopath…” – Steve Berthiaume, sometime in 2015.

  9. scoutsaysweitersisabust - Aug 15, 2013 at 9:54 AM

    Why does every single sport manage to fuck this up? It SHOULD be a very simple process. Have an official either at the game, or in a large data center watching the game, with complete access and control over all replays. When the official spots a blown call, or a suspected blown call, he buzzes the head umpire while a review can be conducted. He then phones in the correct call. Any manger who interrupts the process is ejected.

    This is more or less how every touchdown is reviewed in the NFL, and basically how the NCAA does it.

    Of course the down side to this system, is it still places the responsibility on the officials to not only know the rules, but to actually have the ability to make the correct call, and then be held accountable. This terrifies MLB, as the Umpires Union is apparently the strongest union in existence.

  10. Bob Loblaw - Aug 15, 2013 at 9:54 AM

    If the challenge system is not also accompanied by a rule that managers can not leave the dugout to argue any calls, then it is idiotic. However, provided that the rule is that you can challenge calls but you can’t leave the dugout to argue a call or else it is immediate ejection and further sanctions for breaking rule second, third etc, then challenges might actually help. When a manager leaves the dugout to argue a call it is usually the most boring waste of time. If they can get rid of that in any way, then I am all for it.

    But if they just add challenges, without stopping managers from leaving the dugout to argue anytime they want, then I agree that this is idiotic.

    • 1943mrmojorisin1971 - Aug 15, 2013 at 10:04 AM

      Boring waste of time? You must not remember Lou Piniella….or this:

      • Bob Loblaw - Aug 15, 2013 at 10:06 AM

        You left out the word “usually” in my quote.

  11. dondada10 - Aug 15, 2013 at 9:56 AM

    “Make getting calls right their responsibility, not the manager’s responsibility.”

    That’s exactly it. Bud wants to have his cake and eat it too.

  12. tbutler704 - Aug 15, 2013 at 9:56 AM

    The one part I do not understand is why would you have the beta testing of a challenge system in the MLB playoffs? Implementing this during the most important games of the year seems 100% ass backwards to me.

    • dan1111 - Aug 15, 2013 at 10:21 AM

      Yeah. Why now? Why not next year? (Or why not ten years ago?)

      What changed that has given them a sudden urgency, after years of dragging their feet.

  13. blacksables - Aug 15, 2013 at 9:58 AM

    Beware the slippery slope. It does exist.

    • dondada10 - Aug 15, 2013 at 10:35 AM

      Where does the slope slip to? Robot umps?

      • dan1111 - Aug 15, 2013 at 12:06 PM

        We can hope.

  14. hushbrother - Aug 15, 2013 at 10:00 AM

    Replay with a challenge system is better than no replay at all. But yeah, terrible idea. Just because it’s how the NFL does things doesn’t mean it’s right for baseball. To Craig’s list of problems I would add that it would require teams to have eyes in the sky or “replay coaches” watching the games on TV to alert the manager when to challenge a call. Like THAT wouldn’t be opening a can of worms with regard to cheating or increasing delays or anything.

  15. golfrangeman - Aug 15, 2013 at 10:06 AM

    It’s amazing!! We can watch an instant replay on our T.V. Seconds after the play but for some reason it’s so difficult for MLB to do the same thing. Like someone said earlier just put some dude up in booth watching the game, he should be able to signal down to the umps within 20 or 30 seconds.

    • blacksables - Aug 15, 2013 at 11:57 AM

      Why do you need umps on the field if everything is reviewable?

  16. taylorgang24 - Aug 15, 2013 at 10:08 AM

    No it’s not! Have you watched the nfl? Do you see nfl head coaches coming to midfield to berate an official? Baseballs sideshow has nothing to do with challenges. Give each manager two challenges. Plus managers get ejected because their presence on the field for a single game is literally meaningless. How about cut back on games or get rid of managers.

  17. taylorgang24 - Aug 15, 2013 at 10:14 AM

    As a fan I’d rather be able to blame the coach then once again get mad at the MLB because they didnt review the play. Ur an idiot.

  18. pappageorgio - Aug 15, 2013 at 10:27 AM

    I won’t say that the NFL has replay right or wrong, but one thing the NFL has correct is that they wouldn’t decide to change a rule like this mid season and/or a month and a half before the playoffs start.

    Isn’t there some sort of off-season rules committe? Now seems like a bad time. Especially since no matter what kind of system is put in place…..two thirds of the people are going to hate it.

    I don’t hate the idea of some sort of manager’s challenge on close calls at the everything but balls and strikes but all foul ball/HR calls should be up for automatic review. I don’t think everything on every play should be up for automatic review….the rule book is just too large. One thing I learned from the old college replay rules….. was that the guy in the booth sometimes wants to get in the game too. It they give a booth guy absolute power on every play and something bad is gonna happen.

    A manager’s challenge could really work if baseball is will to think outside the box. Something like giving the manager a challenge every three innings but they don’t carry over if not used

  19. tc4306 - Aug 15, 2013 at 10:29 AM

    The more replay is used, the more I hate it.
    I’m fine with the NHL.
    I’m ok with fair or foul on HR calls.
    I’d be fine with a review of scoring plays in baseball.

    Start reviewing every play and start with manager challenges, and my response will likely be the same as it was with the NFL. I’ll stop watching and lose interest in the game.

    Too often, in the NFL, I found the referees making the “safe” or “reviewable” call rather than what they thought was the correct call. Replay changed the way the game was officiated.

    I’m not a gambler. My house is not riding on an umpire’s call. I do enjoy having the human element in the game…even if the human element gets it wrong sometimes.

    Besides, if everything is decided by slow motion replay, they’re going to have to re-write the words to “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” and who wants that?

  20. chill1184 - Aug 15, 2013 at 10:29 AM

    Am I the only one who wants to see a red challenge baseball?

  21. vanmorrissey - Aug 15, 2013 at 10:42 AM

    STUPID, STUPID, STUPID! Don’t be a follower, be a leader for once you numbskulls. This is one of the dumbest proposals. Go by the NHL model, not the flawed NFL. Baseball continues to get in its own way. Now when it doesn’t work will they ever go back to no challenge? I doubt it because baseball refuses to acknowledge their mistakes. Dumba….es.

  22. grumpyoleman - Aug 15, 2013 at 10:52 AM

    The only thing idiotic is implementing a replay system into a game that is very slow already and has been fine over the years without it. I’m pretty sure my life has never been put on hold for more than a few minutes by any call an umpire has ever made.

  23. Bryz - Aug 15, 2013 at 11:05 AM

    The challenge system is awful. First and foremost, what Craig already said with the managers having to decide which bad call to challenge in a game. Get the calls right all the time, don’t turn it into a game within the game.

    Second, if we are stuck with a challenge system, there better not be some sort of “challenge flag” (or challenge baseball as chill1184 said above). In baseball, there’s enough delay in between plays for a manager to just walk onto the field and notify the home plate umpire or crew chief that he wants to challenge a play. If there was a challenge flag/baseball, then the umpires need to consult with the manager anyway to understand what he’s challenging, which would take just as much time as if the manager had just walked onto the field in the first place.

  24. benjamincharlesparho - Aug 15, 2013 at 11:07 AM

    In a bubble, a manager’s challange system seems like a terrible idea, but as part of a bigger replay system I could see the benefits. It could be part of a balance between getting the call right (having replay to review all of certain plays such as home runs or calls at home plate) and keeping the speed of the game near current levels with a managers challenge (that you could use on other plays that are not mandatory reviews such as I don’t know say a safe/out call on a tag).

  25. leftywildcat - Aug 15, 2013 at 12:18 PM

    Put a 5th ump up in the booth, reviewing all HR close calls, all fail/foul line calls, all base path calls, and all disputable catches. In other works, everything but ball – strike calls and check swing calls.

    No challenges, but put an extra coach from each team in that booth with him to keep him honest. But ump-in-the-booth’s word is final. No challenges. And, might as well put the official scorer in there too.

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