MLB: Chicago Cubs at Pittsburgh Pirates

The video replay system isn’t perfect. It’s better than what came before (nothing) and will be improved upon as the years go by. For now, it works. It isn’t pretty but for now, it’s a success?

The San Francisco Giants might argue otherwise, that the system does not work and as they were on the wrong side of a tough decision on Tuesday night. The Detroit Tigers would surely argue they love the new replay system, as it saved them twice yesterday during their walkoff victory over the Kansas City Royals.

Managers and umpires are still adjusting to the system so we’re seeing the wrinkles work their way out in real time. The current model of “manager shuffles towards field as replay guy determines if it’s worth the gamble” is tiresome even if it isn’t as disruptive as it feels. Most replays take only a minute or so but watching everyone just stand around makes it feel that much longer.

Already umpires are trying to shut down this stall tactic, as Padres manager Bud Black farted around in the dugout long enough that the crew at Petco Park shutdown his replay challenge before it got started, citing the time between play and his approach to the crew chief. And they say umpires can’t be heroes…

Perhaps I’m naive but I can’t say I expected to see so many challenges issued. At one point during the afternoon, I watched two games and both had reviews at the same time.

But despite my bellyaching, the system does appear to work. The players do appear secure in the knowledge that as long as the calls are right, things will even out for them in the end. Royals manager took this very philosophical approach in the aftermath of another heartbreaking loss at the hands of the Tigers yesterday. “Both calls went against us, but that’s what it’s there for — to get the call right. I don’t have any problem with it.”

The situation between the Giants and Diamondbacks shows the limitations of the system, however. After losing a debatable challenge earlier in the same, Giants bench boss Bruce Bochy had no recourse when a blown call at the plate cost his team a run and, eventually, the game. Bochy reserved comment so early in the year but this is a clear example that the prime directive of the replay initiative — get the call right — was not met.

Is the manager’s challenge aspect the weakest link in this chain? The replay system might benefit with the simple addition of an extra ump making the replay/no replay decisions in real time, rather than waiting for the ump to wander out to the field as somebody else decides if it is a worthy challenge.

The replay debate sort of begins and ends with this thought Max Scherzer expressed to Tigers.com “This is a billion dollar industry. Let’s get the calls right.” Just get them right. That’s all most people want.

Even those among us who are less put out by the idea of an incorrect call sullying baseball’s good name can agree that getting the calls right is all the matters. If it reduces the idle time, or the appearance of wasted moments, then all the better. If the ponderous rules system causes another incorrect call to stand, it is part of the problem, not the solution.

Take a cue from the Bud Black situation and make the rule very clear – if you want to challenge, get out on the field. First question from the umps must be “do you want to challenge the play?” Yes or no, right then and there. Make the call, skip. Make it now.

Just three games into the season, the replay debate remains more central than most would have expected. Just as the league and teams work together to streamline the process, some enterprising manager or front office will determine a weak spot, an inefficiency in the system. Good to see the umpires “fighting back” to secure the integrity of the process (lol) and keep the games moving.