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Replay review might not happen during a 2020 MLB season

This would be a step back.

Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images

There are a lot of things to be settled before any 2020 Major League Baseball season begins. Players and owners still aren’t in complete agreement on how players will be paid, and there are still ongoing discussions on exactly how the season will be played, whether in empty stadiums in Arizona, an Arizona/Florida hybrid, or in empty MLB parks around North America.

One thing that was settled recently is how umpires will be paid for 2020. This Associated Press article details the pay structure, but also adds this interesting note:

The new agreement gives MLB the right to not use instant replays of umpires’ decisions during the 2020 season. Most calls have been subject to video review since 2014 and it’s become a big part of games, with about half the challenged calls resulting in a reversal.

I’m not sure why they came to this sort of agreement. Replay review should be one of the easiest things to do, even during some sort of opening of baseball later this year as the novel coronavirus pandemic fades. (Presumably, if the pandemic does not fade, we won’t have baseball, as Crane Kenney hinted last week.)

Since replay review isn’t done on-site at MLB parks, you’d think it would be easy enough to staff at a central location, as is done now. It could conceivably even be done from the review crews’ homes. If something like the NFL draft could be set up from executives’ homes, why couldn’t feeds from parks be sent to replay reviewers’ homes and have decisions rendered from there?

I will note that the agreement between MLB and the umpires simply gives MLB “the right” to not use replay review, per the AP article. It doesn’t flat-out say there won’t be review. If there are no reviews, does this mean we go back to the pre-2014 version of baseball where we have arguments and manager ejections?

Let’s hope MLB can figure out a way to do replay review if and when we have a 2020 season. Is it an imperfect system? Yes, but in my view it’s better than what we had before.

One other interesting note regarding umpires in the AP article is regarding the possibility that they would have to be sequestered during any 2020 season that winds up being played:

The controlled environment would include MLB-provided lodging and meals, and it is called a “monastery setup” in the term sheet, according to a copy of the four-page term sheet obtained by The Associated Press.

MLB has discussed restricting the movement of players, team staff, umpires and broadcast personnel as a method to keep them from being infected. The people in the so-called bubble would be tested for coronavris [sic] on a regular basis.

It’s unclear exactly how this would work and why players are mentioned here, unless MLB is still considering the “Arizona Bubble League” or the “Cactus/Grapefruit League” Arizona/Florida ideas previously discussed. I do like the term “monastery setup,” a euphemism for “We’re sequestering you.”

One thing is for sure: It’s May 2, 37 days past when the 2020 season should have opened, and we’re no closer to having actual baseball than we were on March 12, when baseball shut down and the rest of spring training was cancelled. As always, we await developments.