What we need is a world series-altering gaffe to happen. The NFL instituted replay after the Tuck Rule game, which was in a closely contested playoff game. We need a Royals/Cardinals 1985 type gaffe on Selig’s watch.
MLB just needs a “Non-Instant Replay Subscription Service.”
For a low monthly fee, your game feeds will be meticulously altered so you don’t have to spend an extra 40 seconds of your day watching an ump check a replay. Any initially-incorrect came commentary will be voiced over, seamlessly. Get all the old school enjoyment of a MLB game without the terrible inconvenience of watching while they get the calls right. And how could we forget– more $$$ for Mr. Bud Selig!! Win-Win.
A very good article. I’m a long-time fan (since a kid in the mid 1960s), & I admit I have some trepidation about the expansion of instant replay. In part, I do want to maintain the “human element” of umpiring–I think it’s an important part of the game historically & structurally–& after all, it is a game & not a life or death matter. That said, I would be ok specifically with the trap calls or fair/foul being reviewed, especially since there seems to be a great desire for it. I wouldn’t want to see “robot umps” or technologically-based ball-strike calls, but that’s just me. & good grief, wouldn’t it be wonderful to have almost anyone as a commissioner other than Selig! The letter-writing anecdote illustrates his cluelessness for the umpeenth time. Thanks!
My main problem with replay (assuming there would be no significant delays) is that it seems to rob the sports fan of that instantaneous excitement on your teams play.
Those of you who watch football may know what I’m talking about – in 2000 when a wide reciever made a tiptoe catch in the corner of the endzone and the zebra threw his hands up in the air the living rooms would go nuts in excitement. Now we sit and wait for the inevitable red flag and heart-wrenching three minutes of the announcers somberly taunting us “yeah, this one’s coming back”. I just can’t stand to see that happen every time one of my guys hits a double down the line or steals second.
Most of what makes being a sports fan fun is that everything happens in the moment, in real time – even an ump’s blown call. I’ll live with a few of those if it means I can cheer for a good play unconditionally as it happens.
Comment by La Flama Blanca — July 24, 2012 @ 1:24 pm
Is that quote correct? I assume it is because it makes Selig sound like he just started rambling at the end, which is exactly what I suspect happened.
I’m not a stats guru, but given the way this poll was disseminated I can’t imagine the respondents are a representative sampling of baseball fans. Guessing that the audience for fangraphs.com and tweets from fangraphs writers are pretty similar… The fact that 50+ % of the respondents watch 20+ games would suggest a majority are non-casual fans and (I’m guessing) a lot of bloggers and journalists. I consider myself a pretty devoted fan and there’s no way I get to watch more than 5-8 full games a month.
Not that I don’t agree Selig is out of touch with fans, but I doubt a study like this would prove it to him.
“Most of what makes being a sports fan fun is that everything happens in the moment, in real time – even an ump’s blown call. I’ll live with a few of those if it means I can cheer for a good play unconditionally as it happens.”
5th ump in the booth with the same broadcast feeds that we see at home on the television. He can watch the replays and notify the umps on the field using wireless earpieces if they have blown a call or not. However, only if the managers come out to challenge a call will there be any sort of reversals. If the managers let a call slide, then there’s no change, the umps of the field who called the play stand. If the managers DO challenge it, they already know that they made a mistake and the call can be reversed immediately with hardly any time wasted at all.
Comment by Stuck in a slump — July 24, 2012 @ 1:52 pm
Why was there no question about removing the instant replay already in the game? Some of us find the current level of instant replay in baseball distasteful.
There is absolutely nothing worse than sitting around waiting while the umpires leave the field to check the tape. Just had to suffer through this at a game last Friday. The worst part? I could easily tell exactly where the ball hit the outfield wall and any of the umpires (who were closer than me) should heave easily been able to do the same.
I’d like to see the full use of replay (excepting balls and strikes) but constrained in the same way it’s done in the NFL. Give each manager 2 challenges a game and they can challenge any of the mentioned calls (Safe/out at a base, fair/foul, catch/trap), plus the umpires can choose to replay any calls that aren’t challenged. That’s fair.
As to ‘interrupting the spontaneous excitement’ that’s just a lame argument. Getting it right is far more important than game flow which doesn’t really exist in baseball anyway. It’s a game of interrupted action, long pauses followed by exciting plays. If you want to speed up the game, cut down on pitchers walking off the mound or batters stepping out of the box during an at bat.
Are you reading this Bud, or should I send you a letter?..
The Tuck Rule was upheld (kind of; nothing by that name actually exists), and the situation occurs frequently (probably multiple times every Sunday). Officials are still instructed to call it the same away they (correctly) did in 2002.
I’m not a huge fan of additional replay myself, but how many calls in a game are truly that controversial? In a nutshell, how many times a game does a manager feel the need to come charging out on the field to argue the call? Maybe 1 per team or so. We’re talking about extending the game 5 minutes. Cut a couple of commercials, and we’re fine. Bud would lose money though, so I don’t see this happening.
Comment by Pinstripe Wizard — July 24, 2012 @ 2:08 pm
If the obviousness of the Mauer “foul ball” gaffe in NY wasn’t enough, I don’t know what would be.
Wendy, can you report the numbers in the second-to-last graph as percentages? I.e. of those who watch 20+ games per month, what percentage strongly agree with expanding replay, somewhat agree, etc… repeated for each tier of games watched? It’s tough to interpret with the counts as currently shown. Thanks!
I’m the opposite. I get way more upset when an ump blows an obvious fair/foul call that hurts my team than I get excited when he blows a call that helps my team. I’d rather them get the call right (which on something like a fair/foul call, probably takes 10 seconds) than screw over a team.
Plus, I’d rather hear announcers “somberly taunting” me for 30 seconds than watch fat old managers argue for 5 minutes.
I think you’re better off writing the networks that will be negotiating the next national TV deals to press for it… Bud Selig will always be an owner, and when it comes to owners, money talks. If sponsors and/or partners push for it, it will happen. It’s obvious fans are being largely ignored.
Dugout phones don’t accept outside lines, and you can’t use electronic devices in the dugouts.
To prevent an over zealous manager from contesting everything just in case, you can have a 3 strike rule. If you challenge three umpire calls, regardless as the the outcomes, you’re thrown out of the game.
Comment by Stuck in a slump — July 24, 2012 @ 2:18 pm
What if the robot umps were built specifically to be whimsical and lovable? Would you be more or less likely to accept them?
How about if they replaced “ejecting managers” with “shooting managers with death lasers”?
I was thinking along the same lines. I try to watch every Mets (could be why I am “below average”) game during the season, but even in the best months struggle to see 20+. I have been pretty confident that I watch more than the average fan, but if the average fan is watching more than 20 a month I need to find some new friends that won’t think I am so “obsessed”…
As does cricket, if you’ll forgive the diversion. Though it remains controversial and has arguably robbed the game of some drama (though that drama has been replaced by the alternative tension of awaiting a verdict from the third umpire – who sits in a booth).
Outs in cricket are even more valuable than in baseball – you might be interested to know that the progression of the use of replay/challenges has gone:
1. Safe / Out on a run (equivalent to bang-bang plays, but these were much tougher for cricket umpires due to the lack of sound). This came in in the early 1990s, iirc.
2. Whether balls left the field of play for a boundary (worth 4 or 6 runs – this is far less important than in baseball since team runs usually number in the hundreds). For a while it was very tedious that a minute of slow-mos could be used to determine whether a shot had scored 3 or 4, but much more important decisions that were clearly wrong on first replay stood.
3. Contested catches (i.e. traps) – these still aren’t always clear. Without gloves to catch (because we’re fundamentally tougher over here) there is often an optical illusion that the ball is touching the grass when in fact a fielder’s fingers are under it.
4. Contested “lbw”s – this is the closest analogy to the balls/strikes debate as umpires are interpreting the location of the ball (and predicting its path). Something equivalent to Pitch F/X tracking is used here.
5. Contested catches (as to whether the batsman hit the ball) – since even the faintest of foul tips is an out it’s vital to know whether a ball brushed the bat (or glove) on its way through to the relevant fielder. Infra-red cameras are used here.
The first three of these are called for by on-field umpires, the latter two are subject to a challenge system similar to NFL/tennis.
I don’t think being thrown out after 3 challenges will do much to deter the managers, I mean how much does it actually matter if he is on the bench or in the clubhouse. I think you are essentially asking for the same system as in the NFL, except the review is done by an umpire that is not on the field, like in hockey.
Hey, so those of us who listen to baseball on the radio are chopped liver now? Personally, I’d remove the guy calling balls and strikes. We already have robotic systems that do a better job. If you’re nostalgic for having a guy shout and gesticulate behind the plate, we can still have somebody do that, but he wouldn’t have an impact on the state of the game.
Bud was simply not specific enough. He does take the time to personally answer every letter handwritten written using a quill pen that has a signature sealed with wax. To expect him to respond to anything more modern is absurd.
My preference for expanded replay was not included: Replay should be expanded to indlude safe/out calls on scoring plays. If a contorversial call would impact a scoring play the umpires should be required to review it. So obviously this would primarily include close plays at the plate, but also a non-force-out’s timing with a runner crossing the plate, or any controversial call that could determine whether a run does or doesn’t score.
I prefer this because it’s limited, but would impact the most critical calls in a game.
I am in favor of expanded replay but a few things would need to be worked out.
1. Why do the umpires need to leave the field to review? Why can’t they put a replay umpire in the booth and that umpire can start watching replays of a play before it is “challenged” and then notify the field if it needs to be changed, that would take under 30 seconds.
2. How would challenging fair/foul work? If someone hits a fair ball, but it is called foul, what happens when all players stop moving and the replay shows it was supposed to be fair? Ground rule double? Single? Umpire discretion? A do over? And what if that player is someone like Jose Reyes who could have had a triple instead of a double, or the other way around with like David Ortiz? And I guess this is similar to a trap/catch scenario if the umpire signals catch.
3. Balls and strikes cannot be part of replay, they are judgement calls similar to fouls in basketball and pass interference in football.
I don’t have all the answers so I welcome any thoughts.
1. I agree. Why can’t we use a person in the booth and some wireless tech. Phone in the dugouts for backup.
2. I would think Umpire discretion. It’s in place for several other rules. It’s not perfect, but for the batting team two bases, instead of three, are much better than a foul ball.
3. Has balls and strikes ever been done electronically at any level? If tech could consistently define a strike zone defined to each player, I’d like to see it tried. Not in MLB, but somewhere. I mean, you can’t knock it until you try it.
Comment by Steve the Pirate — July 24, 2012 @ 4:22 pm
If managers take the ejection too lightly there could be a rule that creates a fine for ejections, and teams could be fined for receiving too many ejections in a game.
So a manager gets ejected three times in a week for any reason, he’ll get a $5,000 fine. If a team gets more than two ejections in a game for whatever reason then the team would receive a $10,000 fine. All of the fines could then be routed to the pool of money that gets shared between lower income teams.
Comment by Stuck in a slump — July 24, 2012 @ 4:43 pm
Even if balls and strikes are computer called there WILL be a human element involved and there WILL be a guy gesticulating and shouting behind the plate.
The human element comes in in telling the computer where the top and bottom of the zone are for a particular batter, and in judging things like foul tip/hit batter/ball where the ear is more accurate than current video.
The guy shouting is still there for out/safe calls at the plate, interference calls, and the afformentioned hit batter/foul tip calls.
“Bud Selig is lying to you” hardly qualifies as news (the guy is a used car salesman for crissakes) but it’s nice to be able to throw numbers in his face the next time he does lie. Hopefully the interviewer will do so.
I appreciate your efforts to shed light on this important issue. Every time a bad call affects a game I cringe. I wanted to point out an error in your logic, though. You stated that fans who don’t watch many games can be considered casual fans. I listen to about 100 games a year on the radio, and watch tons of highlights on MLB AtBat. I read blogs like this one, listen to podcasts like Up and In, and know most of the top prospects for my favorite teams and the league in general. I’m not a casual fan, I just don’t watch much TV, and don’t live near an MLB stadium.
Your connection with TV and serious fandom is a bit like Bud’s notion that fans would communicate with letters, perhaps, except that you’re probably more likely to change your view.
Interestingly, replay in cricket has greatly enhanced the reputation of umpires. People see how often they get it right. When they get it wrong, nobody gets upset at them because the call can be overturned.
Instant replay in football makes watching the game SUCK!!! 20 different angles, endless discussion on each one. Please don’t turn baseball (an already slow game) into the circus football has become. Bad calls happen, make the umpires accountable in some way. Can you imagine sitting in the stadium wondering WTF is happening while we have the instant replay time out? If we have to have it, put it up on the scoreboard for everyone to see. Baseball is a 162 game season, we don’t need everything to be 100% all the time!!!
Comment by Hurtlockertwo — July 24, 2012 @ 6:18 pm
It’s also helped to drive some of the worst umpires out of the game, including one or two who weren’t even up to doing the booth job properly [admittedly in its early days].
I’m a big fan – when you see an archive game during a rain delay it shocks you to see how bad it used to be. You forget how many column inches were [needlessly] taken up with discussion of umpiring mistakes, and how many players’ entire careers were affected by poor umpiring.
Imagining Bud Selig’s written correspondence is hilarious. I’m picturing carbon-paper stained letters tut-tutting Rollie Fingers for his outrageous facial hair and beginning to wonder if all this anti-Batista sentiment in Cuba could actually come to something.
Hey look! I am in the 5% that think replay sucks. Good thing Selig probably wont see this article and try to expand replay. Also, 20+ games a month!? Who are you people? I have “watched” roughly 10 of my teams games all season, but obviously since I am here I am no casual fan.
I just don’t buy it… There’s no way of getting every call correct. There will always be concern, unless replay is used for everything.
Why not make the human element of umpiring more robust, first. In my opinion it’s the obvious mistakes that upset people most. For example, why not have an extra umpire on the field that is the team chief, independent of atypical umpire positions and responsibilities. He would be free to float the field as he chooses, and have the ability to create conferences that actually overturn incorrect calls. I imagine there are times when an umpire sees a blatant miscue from the other side of the field, because for whatever reason, he had a better vantage point.
But whatever… I just think that there are ways of making the system better first, before, introducing the massive overhauling of an instant replay slippery slope.
It’s easy to say “more accountability for umps,” but what does that actually entail? Does anyone honestly think that if they start punishing umps more severely for blown calls they’ll perform better? Becoming an MLB umpire is one of the most rigorous processes for any occupation anywhere, and they get crucified every time they miss a big call. Is there anybody out there who thinks punishing Jim Joyce would have made him a better umpire?
We need replay because umpires are doing this as well as humanly possible.
For one, a sad aspect of living, is that with experience, comes age and deteriorating skills. You could make sure that guys can still see well and are in decent physical shape. For lots of reasons, there shouldn’t be a tenure to umpiring MLB games, just as there isn’t a tenure to playing MLB games.
I doubt their union is very good at making sure that the best umpires are umping the most important games.
In Johans no hitter there was a clear fair ball called foul. He didnt deserve the title of first and only mets pitcher to pitch a no-hitter cause he simply didnt. Fair and foul instant replay is a must. We are no longer in the 50’s. We have the technology to call games more accurately and fairly than ever before. I like the idea of trapped, caught balls being available for replay as well. Balls and strikes, out or safe is out of the question because those are onfield umpire calls and that will not and should never change. Umpires are inherently part of this great game and those are things that add to the excitement sometimes (even if called wrong). However they are different from caught balls or fair or foul in the sense that the player either caught it or didnt or the ball was fair or foul. Safe or out has quite a bit or grey area because we would then need to define exactly at what point the ball is caught (when the fielder closes mitt? when it touches the pocket? When it enters the glove? to many questions there and i like it how it is.) as well, every umpire has their own strike zone and is a unique part of the game, similar to the aspect of different sized and quirky parks. Unlike any other sport, the playing field is never exactly the same. Its part of baseball and part of what makes it interesting.
An idea would be possibly to implement something similar to football where teams could challenge a certain number of time throughout the game and and certain number of times in extra innings (3 and 1?). Just my thoughts personally what do u guys think?
I’m for more replay, but FWIW, I sent Selig a letter as part of a high school composition assignment several years back and he did respond personally, with a real signature and everything. Letter writing is a better way to communicate with top people in any organization because they get a million e-mails and e-mails are easy to ignore. If someone takes the time to send an actual letter these days, they mean it. Especially if it’s hand-written. It takes four seconds to send an e-mail, so it’s taken less seriously. Happy letter writing!
The call had to be intentionally blown. No other way to explain it. It’s the only call about which I’ve felt that way.
There was no accountability for Cuzzi on that one, so you can forget about any improvements without the use of technology. Bring it on. It will make the game better, and in 20 years we’ll look back on this as the dark ages.
They need to leave the field so that Bud can continue to argue that replay systems of all types are unwieldy and negatively impact the experience of watching a baseball game. If a booth ump made the correct call in, like, 11 seconds, it would open up fans to the possibility of almost seamless, functional replay in all kinds of situations that would make 77 year old men uncomfortable.