At long last, we are going to have a replay-review system for Major League Baseball regular-season and postseason games in 2014. Here are the details so far:
The owners have also approved funding for instant replay for 2014. More steps to come.— Jerry Crasnick (@jcrasnick) November 14, 2013
Bud Selig says owners have approved expanded replay in 2014. Ron Manfred says it will be based on manager challenge system— Shi Davidi (@ShiDavidi) November 14, 2013
Maximum two manager's challenges per team per game. No distinction on innings. It's two per game.— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) November 14, 2013
And that's where I'm going to stop embedding tweets, because this is where the system is going to fail, guaranteed, fail, and fail miserably.
By limiting challenges to two per game, MLB has introduced an element of strategy into replay review... and that isn't the point of replay review. The point, as I'm sure you have read from me and others, is to get the calls right.
Now, what you're going to have is this: say a manager has used up one challenge in the second inning of a 0-0 game, and then there's an egregiously wrong call in the fourth inning, with the score still tied, a call that everyone knows is 100 percent wrong. Does the manager whose team gets jobbed challenge that call? Or does he hold back, wondering if there's going to be yet another bad call in the eighth inning that might mean more to his team? The play shown above, from this year's World Series, is an example of that. It was at first called incorrectly; the umpires conferred and got it right. Under the new system, it would likely be challenged and reviewed. That play happened in the first inning of a game that was scoreless; the correctly-called error helped open the floodgates for several Red Sox runs. Would a manager challenge that in a random regular-season game in the first inning? (Perhaps in the postseason, they'll review all such plays, though that hasn't been stated.)
This shouldn't be about strategy. This should be about getting the calls right. Yes, it's a good thing that we are going to have reviews of up to four plays per game (two per team), and almost all games will have fewer than this, and some will have none at all.
But by placing an artificial limit on challenges, MLB has left the door open to managers, and teams, getting screwed on calls because they happened late in the game when challenges have been used up.
This, clearly, is a work in progress. Maybe they'll find that this works, that two per game is enough to cover, say, 98 percent of situations and that's enough. But for those two percent... maybe they cost a team a game, and in so doing, down the road, a playoff spot. Maybe they'll change the system if this happens. Also:
Rob Manfred said fans can expect expanded in-game video on stadium boards in conjunction with expanded replay.— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) November 14, 2013
One more thing that a Wrigley Jumbotron would help provide.
For now, I'll be happy that there will be replay review, but cautious in that the system doesn't do everything it could.