It's certainly starting to look that way. The original plan was to try it out during the Arizona Fall League and then implement it in 2009 if successful. Now we're hearing reports that it could be coming to MLB as soon as August 1st. It appears it'll only be used for disputed homerun calls at this point, but what are the odds it won't spread to every contested call eventually? Of course it will.
Those who are for instant replay say that it's necessary because there can be so much at stake with each call. True, we all know that one bad call can ruin a team's momentum or an entire game. But what about a 5 minute break in the action while some central office makes a decision about a call? Anyone who's ever watched a hockey game knows how long the delay can be while the central review office makes their decision, and that's exactly the system MLB looking to mimic.
Proponents also say that it'll be faster than the time it takes to argue with manager's on the field. But don't we all love to see a good fight between a manager and an umpire? Bobby Cox was heralded by Braves fans for taking over the record for ejections, and Lou Piniella is the star of a funny commercial that centers on his reputation for arguing with the umpires and being ejected. Fans and players alike respect the manager that goes out and fights on behalf of his players. Now we're just going to ask that he sit quietly in the dugout and await review from the central office?
And who hasn't seen a catcher frame a pitch that's slightly off and magically turn it into a strike? Or a swipe by the second baseman that misses the runners leg but looks like an out from the upmire's view? Baseball isn't about perfection, it's about human effort and close calls. I want the umpires on the field who are in the moment to make the calls. I want managers to run out on the field and fight for their team and maybe even get ejected from time to time. I don't want the game to come down to reviews from a central office and technical perfection.
Unfortunately, I think we'll see instant replay before the end of the 2008 season. An umpire's memo that has surfaced in recent days shows how instant replay would work in the beginning:
- The crew chief would make the decision as to whether instant replay should be used. His decision would be final and would not be subject to team or league personnel input or appeal.
- If the crew chief chose to use instant replay, a replay official in a central location would watch the instant replay available from all broadcast outlets: home and visiting team broadcast feed and MLB.com feed. The replay official would simply tell the crew chief what he sees on the video but would not recommend if the call should be reversed.
- If the crew chief thought there was clear and convincing evidence of error, he could reverse the call on the field. It has been suggested that retired umpires could serve as the replay officials.
Interested to see what the rest of you out there think about this.