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MLB Finally Says-Let’s Have Another Look at That Play! Welcome to MLB Instant Replay

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Jacob Sonin- Getty Images
Jacob Sonin- Getty Images

We’ve all been there.  Watching at home, or even at the ballgame on the big board, jumbotron or whatever the local MLB team calls it.  A bad or missed call replayed for all to see and tweet about.  Welcome to 2014 Major League Baseball- you have finally instituted a replay system!

After all the dust has settled over free agent signings and who is and who isn’t suspended, it’s time to look at what will have a bearing on all MLB teams and games starting this year- the instant replay.

Managers will hold the majority of power in the instant replay-each team has one “challenge” (for lack of a better name), per game.  Unless that challenge is won or upheld, then they would receive a second.  And after the seventh inning, and only if the managers have used up their challenges, can an umpire call for a challenge of their own.

Both MLB and MLB Player’s Association have been in agreement on instituting the instant replay in some form or another, and both agree that this will be a work in progress.  No one is saying it will be perfect, but Tony LaRussa, one of the MLB executives responsible for the policies, has estimated that 90 percent of calls will be reviewable.

There will be an additional staff of umpires handling the reviews at a central location in New York.  Eight additional umpires (two crews) were hired, and will work on a rotation basis with existing crews manning the review center in New York

So what calls are eligible for review?  Home runs are going to be reviewed as they have in the past, so no change there.  Here is a look at some of the more prominent calls that will have second, or third, looks.

Hit by pitch calls will be reviewed.  So will ground rule doubles and fan interference calls, which often coincide.  Tag plays (including steals and pickoffs) and force plays also can be reviewed, with the exception of the fielder touching second base on a double play.  And my personal favorite- the trap ball in the outfield.

Notice what is missing from the list?  Yup- balls and strikes.  Which is fine by me.  That is the one type of replay that could potentially be so over bearing and overused it would be painful.  Talk about the length of games being affected.  And how could they possibly control how many challenges on balls and strikes? One per batter? One per inning? That was a stoke of genius to omit that one.

It does add an additional element of strategy to the manager’s game calling. To use or not to use their challenge, say in the third inning of a one run game? If it is not upheld, the are out of challenges, and could potentially miss challenging a questionable call on a winning run prior to the seventh inning.

No one is expecting the new rules to be perfect.  Tony LaRussa said “We’re really (targeting) the dramatic miss, not all misses.”

These replays can only be a positive addition to the already great game of baseball.  To be honest, how many true blunders by umpires can you recall? I would dare to say one couldn’t remember more than one per game against the same team.  I am sure there are more calls missed that do not directly affect the outcome of a game, but as LaRussa said, they are aiming to overturn the dramatic miss.

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Robert D. Cobb
Founder, Publisher and CEO of INSCMagazine. Works have appeared and featured in places such as Forbes, Huffington Post, ESPN and NBC Sports to name a few. Follow me on Twitter at @RobCobb_INSC, email me at robert.cobb@theinscribermag.com

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