The world of professional baseball has seen considerable rule changes in recent years, provoking players, coaches, and loyal fans to take sides on the game they love.
On January 16, 2014 Major League Baseball became the final professional North American sports league to implement the use of extended instant replay. Baseball had a previous system in place since August 2008, which allowed only the umpire crew chiefs to call limited replays.
Under the new system team managers are granted the ability to challenge one play over the course of the game, two if the initial challenge is won. The types of plays available for review have also grown to include force plays at any base, fair and foul ball calls, scorekeeping issues and many more.
If a replay is requested by the umpire or manager, the MLB turns over the decision power to a panel of six hand selected umpires in New York City. They then review the challenged play and send their final verdict to the umpire crew working the game.
Baseball is a game unlike most where few plays are needed to determine the outcome. The intention for the current system is to ensure that all calls are made correctly to keep the game as fair and accurate as possible.
While this may seem like a no brainer, there are still those who question the effectiveness of extended instant replay and call for its removal. They criticize the time it adds to an already lengthy game and fell that it tarnishes old traditions thought to be critical to baseball.
Will Farmer, senior infielder at Southern Illinois University, like most believes the replay system has it pros and cons. “I think it’s good and bad for baseball. It’s necessary for them to look at the bang-bang plays at the bases and make sure they get those calls right.”
Farmer continued by saying, “A downside of it is it obviously slows the game down and baseball is already a slow game. A three hour game can easily turn into a four hour or five hour game and that is ridiculous. I think they’re going to fix it along the lines, it is still young right now.”
In 2016, the third season with extended replay, the MLB saw 1,531 challenges over the course of the year, 51.4% of which were overturned. On average each replay lasted one minute and 54 seconds, keeping pace with the previous year’s numbers.
Dennis Galloway, a freelance sports production worker, has directed over 2,000 professional baseball telecasts during his career with the Pittsburgh Pirates and Baltimore Orioles. He has seen the changes baseball has made over the years, going from the old rules to the rules used today. Galloway believes the MLB is accomplishing the task at hand with the new rules.
“I’m for it if it’s going to help get things right,” Galloway said. “There have been too many times it has been shown on a telecast or even on the video board that a play is incorrect. Fans are going crazy, announcers are going crazy on the air, but the call has not been reversed,”
One missed call that changed the history books occurred on June 2, 2010 when the Detroit Tigers faced the Cleveland Indians at Commerce Park in Detroit, Michigan, a day known to some as the “Galarraga game.”
Armando Galarraga was on his way to becoming the 21st pitcher in Major League history to throw a perfect game. Galarraga retired the first 26 batters he faced when the Indians Jason Donald hit an infield grounder in the top of the ninth inning.
First Base Umpire Jim Joyce ruled Donald safe at first, to the dismay of Tigers players, fans and viewers around the world. After another look, it was clear that the runner was out and Joyce made an error. Without extended instant replay, the call stood and Galarraga was stripped of perfect game and his spot in history.
An emotional Joyce met with Galarraga and the media after the game, admitting his mistake and apologizing for the incident. Under today’s rules the call would have been overruled and history could have been made yet again.
Some people still can’t accept the use of replays in baseball because they see it as a stain on the reputation and valued traditions passed down through generations. Baseball is widely seen as a sport that hasn’t changed much since it first playing.
Galloway is very adamant about his stance on technology in today’s world. “You need to keep up with the times. Technology is really entering into a lot of sports, and fans are looking for this.”
Change is inevitable, and the technological revolutions of the past 20 years are hard to avoid even in an old style sport. The use of cameras at live sporting events is still a growing industry, which allows fans both at the stadium and at home to see any play from multiple angles.
Farmer feels as though new technology is essential to today’s game. “I think times are changing, and I feel like you’re in the stone age if you don’t embrace the new technology. It’s better for the game to get things right, and if the technology is there why not do it?”
Extended instant replay has been around for three seasons now, and the system has seen improvements since its debut. More calls are being reviewed, resulting in a more accurate game for all involved.
Baseball may not be the same game as it once was, but technological innovation and acceptance to change can strengthen the traditional ideas by shaping them to more modern societal values.