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Does Baseball Need Instant Replay?

DETROIT, MI – APRIL 19: Major League Umpire Gerry Davis #12 uses the instant replay review system to check on a challenged call made during the game between the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park on April 19, 2014 in Detroit, Michigan. The Tigers defeated the Angels 5-2. (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)

When it comes to baseball, I’m a purist. Growing up as a kid without video games and 500 TV channels we spent our days outside in vacant lots playing baseball. First base might have been an old hub cap, second a tire, third a brick and home plate a piece of cardboard.

It was the days of Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle, and Sandy Koufax. Our heroes wore their team logos for their entire careers. They played in stadiums that didn’t have corporate names — well, OK Wriggly Field and Bush Stadium.

Instant Replay Is Nothing New

Instant replay is certainly nothing new. It’s been used in football for many years. In most cases it’s done more to prove how accurate the officials are than how many calls they might miss.

All sports events are a game of inches. Did he make the first down? Did the ball come out before his knee was down? Was he out of bounds when he made that catch? Instant replay and super slow motion from ten different angles leaves little room for doubt.

How The New Instant Replay Works

Baseball used instant replay on a very limited basis starting in 2008. Instant replay was opened up to cover more plays and allow team challenges beginning with the 2014 season we are currently playing.

The manager of each team is allotted one challenge per game. If he makes a challenge and the call if overturned then he is allowed another challenge. If the call is upheld then he’s done for the game.

Beginning in the seventh inning the umpire crew chief can make a replay review if neither team has any challenges left. An example of this type might be called for if there was doubt about a home run being fair or foul.

All instant replays and decisions are made at the Replay Command Center in New York City. Once a call has been made if a team manager goes on the field to further contest the decision he will be automatically ejected from the game.

Some Final Thoughts

Baseball is not only a game of inches it’s a game of speed. The runner’s foot hitting first base at the same time the infielders throw arrives is referred to as a “bang-bang” play. The umpire must see the runner’s foot hit the base and see, or hear, the ball hit the first baseman’s glove in order to call the runner safe or out.

Tagging a runner also has it challenges for the umpire as well. Dust and dirt flying from the slide along with the angle of the call can make it difficult to see everything clearly.

The wife and I watch a lot of cable baseball and I have to admit I’ve seen many calls overturned. It will be interesting to see how instant replay will play a role in those all important games near the end of the season and during the playoffs. While instant replay does make the game more accurate the purist in my still gets a little antsy watching those umpires in there headsets talking to New York. I guess it will take some getting used to.

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