There’s something about seeing a manager storm from the dugout and take aim at an umpire.
Arms go flailing, dirt gets kicked up, and language unfit for a barroom spews. Maybe a base is pulled from the ground and lobbed so that it resembles a UFO. The violator of baseball’s decorum is ejected from the game, then immediately repeats the choreographed routine.
It’s great drama and fun, unless you happen to be the umpire who is the object of the abuse.
Will this summer’s theatrics be different? Will on-field arguments be replaced by mild-mannered requests to invoke Major League Baseball's instant replay? I mean, what’s the sense of yelling? A group of umpires will be holed up in an office tower in New York City waiting to correct a possible injustice.
Baseball is a sport that takes tradition seriously. While other leagues have turned to technology to improve on the human factor, the Grand Old Game is just now embracing change in a serious way.
Here’s how the new rule works: Each manager gets one challenge per game. Should he ask for a review and win, he gets to use the challenge again. Once it's gone, an umpire can choose to double-check any reviewable play after the sixth inning.
Managers can challenge an array of calls - home runs, fan interference, touching a base or a disputed catch in the outfield, to name a few. Managers will not be allowed to (officially) question a called ball or strike.
If those in the dugout thought there was pressure to make strategic decisions -- such as whether to go to the bullpen early or insert a pinch-hitter – this will give pundits and patrons another avenue of second-guessing. The manager better be right in ordering a review. If he’s wrong, it will be as if he looked at a called third strike with the bases loaded in a one-run game.
The review looks like a good plan. It’s implementation, however, is to be determined.
Baseball already has a serious problem with games dragging on too long, so anything further affecting the pace of raises concerns. That’s why the possibility of unlimited challenges was struck down immediately.
Baseball went to some of its brightest minds to formulate its plan to make an instant replay fair and workable. It tapped World Series-winning managers Tony La Russa and Joe Torre, as well as long-time executive John Schuerholz.
Interestingly, the umpires on the field will have no role in reviewing a disputed call. They will not have access to a monitor, nor will they be allowed to leave the field at any time.
Where things could get interesting is after the sixth inning, should both managers use their challenges. What happens then if there is a controversial call and the umpire won’t ask for an instant replay? That’s when things might heat up.
Replays have worked well in other sports, especially football, where obvious mistakes have been corrected. It’s been much the same in basketball. No one wants to see the outcome of a game determined by a missed call.
“Clear and convincing evidence” will be the standard by which an umpire’s decision is overturned.
It remains to be seen whether the rhythm of the game will be affected, and whether a crew of umpires in the Big Apple can make a determination in less time than it takes to sing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.”
Strangely, it was instant replays on television and the scoreboard that made it clear that baseball needed to adopt modern technology. Too many mistakes were being made.
While the format will be refined over the next couple of seasons, it's clear that instant replay will add a new dimension to the game.
What remains to be seen is whether players and managers will still be ejected.
Tom Lindley is a CNHI sports columnist. Reach him at email@example.com.