As most of you know, I've been on a soapbox about expanding replay review in baseball ever since the home-run review system was devised in 2008. I don't think I have to go over and over and over all the highly-publicized bad calls since then (although you see a very well-known bad call from last year's World Series at the top of this post, and fortunately the umpires conferred after that one and got it right).
This week, major-league owners are meeting in Paradise Valley, Arizona, and Fox Sports' Jon Morosi says replay review is about to be approved:
Major League Baseball is "very close" to formal agreements on replay with the MLB Players Association and World Umpires Association, sources told FOX Sports Wednesday evening. The timing of that progress is important, with MLB owners set to vote on rule changes associated with the replay expansion during their quarterly meeting here Thursday. MLBPA executive director Tony Clark told FOX Sports last weekend that the union was still "working through some of the issues" raised by the replay expansion. But MLB and the union have made progress in recent days, to the point that the revised MLB proposal revealed after Thursday’s meeting is likely to have backing from the union. Managers are expected to have one challenge through the first six innings, which they will retain if their challenge is correct; after that, the umpire crew chief will have the discretion to initiate a replay. Certain plays — such as balls and strikes — will not be reviewable. Interestingly, sources said the "neighborhood play" at second base will not be reviewable because of the union’s concerns about the health of middle infielders.
I've said before that I'm not in favor of the challenge system; what if you use up your challenge in the second inning and then there's an even more egregiously bad call in the fifth? Based on what's described above, that wouldn't be reviewable by umpires, because it happened before the seventh inning, when umpires will have discretion to call for a review on their own. This makes review a strategic call by managers, when the point should be to get all the calls right.
However, this is a step in the right direction. For those worried that this will slow games down, remember that there are 2,430 major-league games every year. The vast majority of them will have no reviews at all -- think about it, there are generally many games that go by without a single disputed call, and review is likely to take less time than having a manager go out and argue.
In general, umpires do a pretty good job (leaving the ball-and-strike calls out of it, which they're going to do in this system). This will help them do their job better, and make sure that the results of the games reflect what the players actually do, rather than base the results on one man's opinion. Example: had this system been in place in 2010, Armando Galarraga would have completed his perfect game, as the bad call made that night is a perfect example of the sort of play that will be reviewable.
They'll need to tweak this over time, but they're at least going the right way now. Congratulations, MLB, on joining the other major team sports in North America in using replay review.