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Writer’s Roundtable: Replay in Baseball?

Games are won and lost each year as a direct result of missed calls by umpires. So, naturally, this topic seems to come up every year. Should there be replay in baseball? If so, to what extent should replay be used? Can we use an alternative to replay? My opinion is that MLB should add an additional umpire that watches the game in real time on various monitors in a booth and can talk to the umpires on the field if a call should get reversed or at least looked at in slow motion. Here’s what the rest of our writers think:

Jay Floyd: The technology is there and it’s helpful in ensuring the proper calls are made in others sports and in certain aspects of baseball, so let’s get the appropriate changes in motion to give professional baseball the right results all of the time.

The basis of arguments against replay in baseball is often that it subverts the legacy of the sport or undermines the umpires that are, for some reason, held so sacred, despite constantly being proven unworthy of support for having exceptional judgement.

I don’t know what the best methods for expansion of video replay in baseball should be, but with the ability to get every call right, why not use it? Preserving history and officials’ feelings aren’t strong enough reasons to deny players, team personnel and fans a 100% accurate and legitimate outcome.

Pat Gallen: I’m all for replay being a part of the game. However, I do not want to see several stoppages per game as the game is slow enough already. We’ve come a long way with technology and it should be used when necessary. But let’s not completely remove the human element of the game. I like it for home runs and I like the idea of a few challenges for managers for calls at bases and fair or foul balls.

Perhaps 2 challenges on calls that do not pertain to home runs can be used per game and if both of those are correct a third can be given. You can not use a challenge on balls or strikes. Also, to keep the pace of the game, the crew chief should wear an earpiece and be hooked up to a 5th umpire or a “war room” like the NHL has implemented to get the call correct in a timely fashion.

That said, if MLB were to do little or nothing in the way of change replay, I’d be OK with it. We did without it for a long time and the game is still strong.

Corey Seidman: I have long been a proponent of one managerial challenge per game, using the same method used in football. I see zero downside. People criticize this option and I have no idea why.

It forces a manager to be strategic. He may or may not use his challenge. If he uses it and the call is overturned in his favor, he gets another one. If the call stands, he’s out of challenges.

This doesn’t prolong a game. It would figure to decrease the time of a game, because if a bad call is made and the manager is out of challenges, he can be immediately ejected for coming out to argue, no matter the play in question.

To me, this makes more sense than the proposed expansion of replay to all balls down the line and traps vs. catches. THAT will prolong games.

Eric Seidman: I’ve long advocated the position of having an extra ump in a box somewhere with multiple monitors. This ump can, via headset or some such device, relay to the umps that something needs to be reversed. We can’t continue to have instances where balls are called foul even though we clearly see the indentation in the chalk, and more of the like. This box-ump wouldn’t reverse balls or strikes, but there are far too many plays that could be avoided if there was simply somebody else monitoring everything, letting the umps know it needs to be reversed, and then having it reversed.

Ryan Dinger: For most of my baseball-watching life, I’ve been a staunch opponent to the integration of instant reply. But, in recent years, I’ve stepped back from that belief. Perhaps it’s because of the HD technology we’re now subjected to each and every night, or the ability to slow down a replay to microseconds, where there can be no disputing whether a runner was safe or out, a ball caught or dropped, but I now find myself clamoring for the increased usage of replay in baseball.

I’d be in favor of incorporating replay in baseball for just about any instance that doesn’t include an umpire calling balls and strikes (an umpire’s strike zone has always been and always should be subjective). I think the idea of giving a manager two challenges–similar to what they do in the NFL–with a third one awarded for two correct challenges is an excellent strategy for incorporating replay.

Don McGettigan: I too am a big fan of the “5th umpire” idea. MLB should have an additional umpire in a video booth (similar to the NHL), and when a call needs a review – they are able to utilize all available camera angles, slow motion, freeze frame – whatever it takes to get the call correct.

However, I think MLB umpires do a very good job, and they never get praise for a job done well. Think of all the “bad calls” that you have seen on TV in recent years, now think of all the “good calls” that replays have confirmed to be correct calls by the umpires.

Ian Riccaboni: Part of the beauty of baseball for me is remarkable percentage by which the officials do make the right call. Adding challenges or extended replay would distract from the umpires’ successes and add unnecessary breaks to the steady pace of the game.

I am not a fan of extending replay past what already exists with one exception – adding an eye-in-the-sky, fifth umpire who can help on fair or foul calls. Letting the game essentially play out on close fair or foul calls would not interrupt the game and would avoid situations like the missed call in the Johan Santana no-hitter. I would never touch balls or strikes or bang-bang plays at the bag.

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