Major League Baseball owners voted unanimously today to significantly expand instant replay, as the league is finally catching up to the rest of the sports world.
According to MLB, these plays will be subject to review:
-- Home run
-- Ground-rule double
-- Fan interference
-- Stadium boundary calls (e.g., fielder into stands, ball into stands triggering dead ball)
-- Force play (except the fielder's touching of second base on a double play)
-- Tag play (including steals and pickoffs)
-- Fair/foul in outfield only
-- Trap play in outfield only
-- Batter hit by pitch
-- Timing play (whether a runner scores before a third out)
-- Touching a base (requires appeal)
-- Passing runners
-- Record keeping (Ball-strike count to a batter, outs, score and substitutions)
Managers will have at least one challenge, which they can keep if the play is overturned, and cannot challenge more than two plays a game. Umpires can call for a review themselves after the sixth inning.
The plan, which was also approved by the MLB Players' Association and the World Umpires Association, takes careful measures to ensure challenges will be dealt with swiftly, responding to the common criticism that instant replay slows down an already long game. The review will be conducted at the Replay Command Center at MLB Advanced Media's headquarters in New York. The crew chief and one other umpire can communicate with the center through a hard-wired helmet near home plate. In addition, teams will have a direct phone line from the dugout to the clubhouse video room that will allow them to decide quickly if they want to challenge. Umpires also reserve the right to discipline managers who don't challenge in a timely fashion. Joe Torre, executive vice president of baseball operations, estimates that most reviews will take about a minute to 90 seconds.
A somewhat overlooked victory in today's announcement is that replays of all plays -- whether they've been reviewed or not -- can now be shown in stadiums. That gives fans even more opportunities to back-seat umpire during controversial calls. If you've ever been in a ballpark when a close play wasn't shown on the Jumbotron, you know the ire fans direct at teams and officials for hiding behind their big screen. By increasing transparency, everyone in the stadium can see once and for all which way a call should go.
This is a major step past baseball's self-impeding affinity for the human element, choosing to go with accuracy over sentimentality. Instead of arguing over who missed what call, we can all go back to arguing over who overpaid what player.
(Kavitha A. Davidson is a Bloomberg View columnist who writes about sports. Follow her on Twitter at @kavithadavidson.)