Because of many obviously-blown calls (well, obvious to everyone but the umpire) in baseball but no means by which to really review and retract judgments, Major League Baseball rightfully decided to institute a system to review plays using video footage from television production crews covering the games. The purpose was to prevent such blatant blown calls from deciding games. A couple arguments against using instant replay is that it disrupts the purity of simply using human judgment and because instant replay further slows down the pace of play.
There is a delicate balance that must be struck when reviewing plays – MLB wants the games to be called as accurately as possible, but with an already horrible pace of play without using instant replay, MLB further exacerbates the pace problem if they use a lot of time to check so many extremely-close plays.
A game on Monday night called into question the judgment of a catch as to what is considered “secured possession” or not and the transfer rule:
You think you know what a catch is? Here’s a play from Monday night, with Rangers catcher J.P. Arencibia trying to turn a 1-2-3 double play. He appears to catch the ball and then drop it while making the transfer to his throwing hand. Home plate umpire Paul Schreiber initially called the baserunner out. Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon appealed the play and after a lengthy four-minute instant replay delay, the call was overturned and Dustin Ackley ruled safe.
FOUR MINUTES to decide a play that probably took five seconds to complete. (Just watch the first minute of the video, lest you fall asleep like many fans likely did during this time.) Yes, it’s a big play at the plate, with the judgment affecting a run being scored. With the judgment being overturned, McClendon’s challenging of the call was justified.
But four minutes. If MLB is so concerned with the pace of play and instant replay is now a new contributor to the pace of play delay, shouldn’t MLB be measuring if not mandating that reviews be kept short? Shouldn’t this be a big metric to monitor?
MLB needs to decide what is most important to them – must the umpires and the instant replay system get every call right, or do they want to tighten up the pace of the game? It’s pretty obvious they can’t have both to their fullest extent. One must be prioritized over the other.
I’m not one to just throw out solutions, but if MLB wants to prevent the super obvious blown calls (a la Don Denkinger and Jim Joyce) while also trying to hold what fractured pace of game they still have, I suggest instant replays take no longer then sixty seconds. That is likely enough time (but not confirmed or measured by me) to tell if a play is obviously blown, and not so long that fans can’t be extremely bored moreso than they already are. If an umpire can’t make a satisfactory judgment after sixty seconds then the play stands because it’s not obvious at regular speed, let alone at super-slo-mo.
With this sixty-second mandate, five-second real-time plays wouldn’t take four minutes to replay and review and make the crowd restless.