Baseball has maintained its position in sports culture as the old-school, traditional sport. Like learning how to ride a bike, everyone remembers learning to throw with dad in the backyard. Some will argue that football has gained more prominence — a fair argument — but not much compares to a bag of peanuts and a giant glass of lemonade on a summer day at the ballpark. But over the last decade as a wave of technological innovation took over baseball suddenly began falling to the wayside. All of a sudden the classic American pastime was losing ground because its pace was too slow, falling behind other sports where the tempo is more energetic and more exciting. The stigma of the Steroid Era we find ourselves in certainly doesn’t help baseball’s publicity, but this week Major League Baseball announced a move that will help boost morale and bring the league up to speed with the other members of the Big Four (NHL, NBA, NFL).
This past Thursday at the quarterly Owners Meetings in Arizona, team owners made the unanimous decision to use expanded video replay in the 2014 season. The new rules state that a manager will be given one challenge per game, similar to their counterparts in the NFL.
Managers must use the challenge before the sixth inning, at which point the privilege to challenge expires and the chief umpire of the day assumes the right to call for a review. When a manager correctly calls for a challenge and a decision is favorably overturned, the umpire will award the manager one more challenge. The reasoning behind the decision to allow one challenge per game, involves statistics that show the amount of miscalled, controversial decisions that negatively impact a game’s outcome. It was important to the league that introducing challenges would not excessively extend a game where games already last three, sometimes four hours.
Almost all plays will be subject to challenge calls, with exception to calls of interference or obstruction. Home run calls, tag outs, touching the base, plays made at first base or home plate, fair/foul calls and force plays will all be eligible for challenges.Managers will be allowed contact with an “eye in the sky” video coordinator, who advises the manager whether or not to challenge. This is acceptable so long as equal access to video content is given to home and away teams.
There really is not much to complain about with the new rules. The only question that comes to mind personally, is why would the league prohibit challenges beyond the sixth inning when a missed call in the eighth or ninth would likely have stronger backlash from players and managers trying to close out a nine inning dead heat? Especially when you consider the potential for blown perfect games and no-hitters, we can only hope that umpires will accurately recognize when use of video replay is necessary during late game situations.
It was only a matter of time before the MLB caught up to modern times and started using the available technology to make a change that will positively impact the outcome of every league game. It is frustrating for fans and players alike to watch a blown call cost a team the game, and this set of rules will likely resolve these issues. This was a step in the right direction as baseball junkies everywhere have reason to rejoice for a season where officiating will be much improved.