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Charge the ump – replay hits MLB

Crunch Time


So it’s happened – instant replay is finally coming to Major League Baseball.

OK, it’s been in the works for a couple years, with umpires being allowed to review home run balls beginning back in 2008. Starting next season, that pastoral game will lose some of its subjectivity and become, well, like that technological game, football.

According to an Associated Press story, here’s how it will work. Each manager will get a maximum of two challenges per game (like football). If a challenge is upheld, it won’t count against the manager’s limit (like football).

If a manager wants to challenge a call he notifies the umpire before the next pitch (in football it’s the next play). Video will be reviewed in New York, likely by current and former umpires. In football, they have a replay booth in the stadium.

Why New York? Is baseball worried managers will charge the booth? What if they lose the feed?

And wait a minute, what does MLB mean by “likely?” Either they’re umpires or they’re not. There is no likely. But if they do mean officials other than former or current umps, where do I apply?

If a manager is out of challenges, an umpire probably will be allowed to call for a review if he wants to. Also similar to football, and we’ve seen how this goes. Refs review things so many times that practically the only thing left that’s not reviewed is the coin flip.

If you can “expect delays” from the Washington State Department of Transportation, just wait until MLB replay gets fully underway, and especially in the playoffs.

Finally, replay does not apply to balls and strikes, checked swings, and some foul-tip calls.

So as the AP story said, no more blown calls, like the one at first base by umpire Don Denkinger in Game Six of the 1985 World Series against Kansas City that likely cost St. Louis a world title. As a Cardinals fan, that still stings.

As a baseball purist, I should be opposed to instant replay. But I’m not a baseball purist – I like the designated hitter rule.

But with instant replay, will we lose one of the more entertaining moments in baseball – the moment a manager charges an umpire to protest a call.

I mean, there was high entertainment value in watching former Seattle Mariners manager Lou Pinella toss bases, kick dirt on umpire’s shoes.

In 1994 I visited a college buddy in Los Angeles for a week, and on my first Monday there, we went to a Dodgers-Pirates game. After arguing a call at first base, Pirates manager Jim Leyland said something on his way back to the dugout to the Dodgers pitcher – something I understood perfectly from my seat right behind home plate but cannot write here – that caused a benches-clearing brawl.

With instant replay, Leyland might never have been out there to make his pointed comment.

I get it that it’s the 21st century and technology should be embraced in sports, especially if it’s cloaked in the guise of making the game better. I also get that, depending on whom you talk to and what measuring stick is used, umpires get calls right anywhere from 46 percent to 99.5 percent of the time, lending credence to the argument that instant replay creates fairness and consistency.

So, let the experiment begin. My guess is we’ll see games stretch up to and over four hours, without extra innings, thanks to reviews so I anticipate more rule changes.

As for managers no longer charging umpires, fat chance. If I know my MLB managers, it will take a lot more than running out of challenges to shut them up.

John McCallum can be reached at


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