Just over the half way point of the first year of expanded replay, Major League Baseball has seen an astonishing 671 reviews, 157 (23.4%) of the calls have been “confirmed,” 318 (47.4%) have been “overturned” and 189 (28.2%) have have resulted in a call “stands,” meaning the reviewing umpire crew stationed in New York City did not feel there was enough evidence to change the call on the field. Regardless of all of its flaws, the fact that there have been 318 blown calls changed and gotten correctly, undoubtedly makes the first year of expanded replay an overall success. Without question, the outcome of several games have been directly or indirectly effected by the ridiculous 318 FREAKING calls that have been changed!
Now to my constructive criticism of the review process.
Number 1. Union membered umpires need to be removed from the review process. There have been several plays where there seemed to be more than enough evidence to overturn a call yet the call stood. Rumors were that early in the season umpires were getting upset with one another for overturning calls which several umpires felt was making them look bad. There is clearly a conflict of interest one way or another. The fact that there have been 189 call “stands” is disturbing.
Solution 1. Hire an independent rules panel to be the deciding factor on all reviews. This isn’t rocket science and if it was we put a man on the moon 45 years ago, July 20th, 1969.
Number 2. Managers should not be the ones who decide whether or not a call should be challenged. Managers have enough on their plate to worry about whether or not an umpire is doing his job correctly. The manager coming out to buy time so the team’s own video review coordinator can take a look and decide if the call should be challenged takes way too long and quite frankly makes a mockery of the game and the review process. Not to mention the BS cordial conversation between umpire and manager is making Earl Weaver roll over in his grave.
Solution 2. Have the same independent rules panel watching each game buzz in when they want to take a quick look. Or, if somebody within the umpiring crew, even the guy who made the call, thinks there could have been a mistake, have the rules panel take a look. You can generally tell within 30 seconds if the umpire blew the call or not.
Number 3. Lose the headsets. Considering it is the year 2014 the entire process is an absolute joke. With the push of one button on my phone I can send whatever information I want all the way to the other side of the world within seconds. Why is it that the entire umpiring crew needs to go behind home plate and throw on these enormous cans that should have been out of circulation 50 years ago. The process is overly drawn out and very time consuming.
Solution 3. We have these really cool new inventions called cell phones. Make a call, send a text or if MLB wants to remain social media savvy the umpires and replay command center can communicate via Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, or Instagram. They could even send a Vine video of the play for more comprehensive clarification. If MLB decides they want to go old school on 80’s night at the ballpark, umpires can be equipped with one of the 1980’s greatest inventions, the pager. All better options than the oversized Alaskan ear muffs.
Number 4. All plays need to be reviewable. The list of what is NOT reviewable is way too long. If you have a system in place to get every call correct, why would you possibly use it for some and not for others? For me, there is no such thing as a judgement call in the game. I consider everything, including the strike zone, very black and white.
Solution 4. Foul tips, check swings, runners out of the baseline and the “neighborhood play” all need to be fair game for review. Several times already through the course of this season the dynamic of games have changed based on WRONG calls that were deemed non reviewable. Everything with the exception of balls and strikes need to be up for review, for now. The system is far from perfect now but it is a whole lot better than it has ever been. I look forward to watching the expanded replay system evolve until someday within the near future we welcome the arrival of the “MEN IN STEEL!” #RoboUmps.