Instant replay in Major League Baseball
Instant replay in Major League Baseball uses a system similar to that in the National Hockey League. This started in the last month of the 2008 season and was implemented on August 28, 2008. The system allows instant replay to be used to review boundary home run calls to determine:
- fair (home run) or foul
- whether the ball actually left the playing field
- whether the ball was subject to spectator interference
A technician and an official (either an umpire supervisor or former umpire) monitor all games occurring at any given time from MLB.com's office in New York City (similar to the NHL system). Though a player or coach may argue for a review, final determination of whether a review will occur lies solely with the umpire crew chief, usually after consultation with the rest of the umpiring crew. If a crew chief believes a replay is warranted, he will go to a special console installed at every ballpark – accompanied by one or more members of the umpiring crew – and call the technician using the phone attached to the console. The technician in turn will feed the appropriate footage to the television screen. Upon reviewing the footage, the umpire must see "clear and convincing evidence" that the call on the field was incorrect in order to reverse it. Additionally, in the case of a home run call that is reversed (e.g., to a double), the crew chief is responsible for the placement of baserunners where they should have ended up had the correct call been made.1
Instant Replay in MLB actually had been used once before in the 1999 season during a Florida Marlins home game at Pro Player Stadium. This was the first instance in which instant replay was utilized in Major League Baseball.3 While playing the St. Louis Cardinals, Cliff Floyd hit a ball off of the top of the left field scoreboard. Originally ruled a double, then ruled a home run, NL Umpire Frank Pulli reverted the call back to a double, after consulting a TV monitor in the Marlins dugout. The Cardinals won the game, 5-2, and the Marlins protested the use of the TV monitor. The National League Office declared the umpires erred in using Instant Replay, and the American League Office concurred that Instant Replay was not to be used in the future. However, the Marlins protest was denied on the grounds that it was a judgment call rather than a rules violation as such, and the play stood.4 MLB did not use Instant Replay again for almost a decade.5
Although not an exact "instant" replay, a controversial play in the 1969 World Series involving a J. C. Martin bunt attempt led Commissioner Bowie Kuhn to study the videotape the next day, to assure himself and to announce that a reasonable call had been made by the umpires.
Major League Baseball instant replay was instituted on August 28, 2008 by commissioner Bud Selig. "I believe that the extraordinary technology that we now have merits the use of instant replay on a very limited basis", Commissioner Selig said. "The system we have in place will ensure that the proper call is made on home run balls and will not cause a significant delay to the game."1
Although MLB was the last of the four major United States professional sports leagues to implement an instant replay review system, replay has been used 123 times between August 28, 2008 and the conclusion of the 2010 season (with 48 of those instances resulting in overturned calls).6
Replay made its official, sanctioned MLB debut at Tropicana Field on September 3, 2008 after Alex Rodriguez of the New York Yankees hit a ball near the left-field foul pole that was initially ruled a home run by third base umpire Brian Runge. Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon and catcher Dioner Navarro argued that the ball was foul and asked for a review. After a conversation among the umpires, crew chief Charlie Reliford allowed the replay, which was sent by MLB.com logger Dominic Sims, to take place and after review, upheld the home run call.7
The first instance of an umpire's call being overturned by instant replay also occurred at Tropicana Field. On September 19, 2008, in the bottom of the 4th inning with two men on, Carlos Peña of the Rays hit the ball just over the fence in right field. The umpires originally ruled that there was spectator interference, but after several minutes of viewing replays, the umpires returned to the field and signaled it a home run, extending the Rays' lead to 9-0 at that point.8
Aside from the two aforementioned reviews at Tampa Bay, review was used five additional times during the 2008 regular season: Twice at Houston, and once each at Seattle, San Francisco, and Philadelphia.
On March 16, 2009, during the 2009 World Baseball Classic, instant replay was requested for the first time in the tournament's history at LandShark Stadium to give Venezuela a home run against Puerto Rico. Crew chief Ed Rapuano stated in a postgame press conference that there was never any replay, because the "war room" in New York City was unable to send him a replay of the play in question due to technical difficulties. The umpires, two from the United States and two from Japan, then worked with a translator to make a final ruling. Three of the four umpires said they believed it was a home run, and when third-base umpire Hitoshi Watarida was asked by Rapuano if he was "110 percent sure" that it was a home run, Watarida said yes. Nearly 10 minutes after first entering the dugout, the umpires returned to the field and awarded the Venezuelan team with a home run.9
On June 19, 2008, instant replay was used twice in a game for the first time, during the Detroit Tigers vs the Milwaukee Brewers game. This was also the first usage of instant replay in interleague history.11
On October 31, 2009, instant replay was used for the first time in a World Series, when in the fourth inning of Game 3 of the World Series, Alex Rodriguez hit a ball that bounced off the camera in right field. Initially played as a double, the umpires reviewed the play, and determined that had the camera not been in its location, the ball probably would have left the park, and a home run was awarded to Rodriguez, making the score 3-2.12
On June 1, 2011, Billy Butler of the Kansas City Royals hit a fly ball to left field in the bottom of the ninth inning of a scoreless game against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. The ball hit off the fence over the left-field wall and skipped back onto the field. It was ruled a double and Jeff Francoeur held at third. Manager Ned Yost argued that it was a home run. The umpires reviewed it and saw that the ball hit off the back part of the fence and went back onto the field (Kauffman Stadium's configuration allows for this play to be officiated as a home run). After review, the umpires accordingly ruled home run, granting the Royals a 2-0 victory. This is the second walk-off home run reviewed by instant replay in MLB history.
On June 29, 2011, Jorge Posada of the New York Yankees hit a fly ball to right field. The ball bounced off the wall and a fan reached over to grab it. Originally ruled a base hit, instant replay showed that the fan touched the ball as it bounced back onto the field. After the review, the umpires called it a home run.
On August 17, 2011, Billy Butler hit a fly ball to left field. It hit off the railing in left. Brett Gardner grabbed the ball when it came back in and threw it into the infield. The umpires called it a home run. Joe Girardi came out to argue. The umpires looked at the review. The replays showed that the ball hit off the wall in left, exited the field and returned; the call stood, giving Butler his 15th home run of the season. 13
On August 18, 2011, Justin Morneau hit a deep fly ball to right field that appeared to go just to the right side of the foul pole for a foul ball. However, the umpires immediately called it a home run. For the second straight night, Joe Girardi came out to argue the call and ask for a review. The umpires reviewed and ruled that the ball did indeed go past the right side of the foul pole, thus calling it a foul ball. Twins manager Ron Gardenhire came out to argue the call and was ejected from the game by home plate umpire Brian O'Nora for arguing a decision to change a call after looking at instant replay, which pursuant to MLB rule, shall result in an automatic ejection.14
On September 4, 2011, Hunter Pence of the Philadelphia Phillies hit a fly ball to deep right field. Originally ruled a live ball, instant replay showed Marlins right fielder Bryan Petersen was interfered with by multiple fans during his opportunity to catch a ball, under Rule 2.00 INTERFERENCE (d)(1) and (2). After instant replay review, first base umpire and crew chief Joe West ruled Pence out under the provisions of spectator interference, Rule 3.16, and sent Phillies baserunner Ryan Howard back to first base. For the second time in less than a month, a manager was ejected arguing the instant replay decision: Charlie Manuel was ejected and elected to play the game under protest. On September 7, 2011, MLB VP of Baseball Operations Joe Torre denied the first ever protest associated with authorized instant replay usage.15
During the 2011 American League Division Series, Robinson Canó of the New York Yankees hit a fly ball to left field. It bounced off the wall and back into play. Cano argued that the ball went over the wall. Instant replay showed that the ball bounced off the wall and narrowly missed a fan, bouncing back into play. Therefore, the call stood.
On May 8, 2013, Adam Rosales of the Oakland Athletics hit a game tying home run, but was initially ruled a double, as the ball hit a railing behind the wall in left field and bounced back on the field. Despite video replays clearly indicating a home run, umpire Ángel Hernández upheld the original ruling. Oakland manager Bob Melvin was ejected for arguing and the Cleveland Indians held on to win 4-3. 16
As part of the new collective bargaining agreement between MLB's owners and players union (MLBPA), and pending approval by the umpires union (WUA), two additional elements will be added to the replay rules. Instant Replay will expand to include fair and foul calls and balls that are caught, or trapped by the player catching the ball. It will also expand interference reviews beyond the home run boundary to all walls. Not expanded in 2012, Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations Joe Torre confirmed that instant replay would again not be expanded in time for Opening Day 2013, putting off plans for yet another season. 17 On August 15, 2013, Major League Baseball announced that it will expand its video review process for the 2014 season, granting managers one challenge over the first six innings of games and two from the seventh inning until the end of the game. Calls that are challenged will be reviewed by a crew in MLB headquarters in New York City, which will make the final ruling.18
Following the conclusion of the 2013 World Series, MLB announced it would test expanded instant replay as proposed for 2014 for a week's slate of games in the Arizona Fall League.19 During the 2nd inning of the Tuesday, November 5 Solar Sox-Rafters game played at Talking Stick, 1B Umpire Sean Barber ruled batter CJ Cron out at first base on a close play. Manager Bill Richardson approached plate umpire Hal Gibson to challenge the play, initiating the first video review conducted by off-field umpires and relayed via headset to the plate umpire; Barber's out call was upheld after the review. In total, four plays were reviewed during the debut game, with instant replay affirming the umpire's on-field call all four times.20
The first overturned call occurred during November 6's Rafters-Scorpions game when umpires used replay to reverse an out call on a stolen base attempt. The game also featured a rare multi-replay challenge, as video review upheld two umpiring calls in one play—batter Kyle Kubitza's touch of second base as well as his slide into third base ahead of a tag.21
In total, 15 calls were challenged with three overturned upon instant replay review, resulting in a 20% overturn rate.22
To accommodate the anticipated expansion of instant replay, MLB promoted seven minor league umpires to the full-time major league staff on January 14, 2014.23 Two days later, on January 16, MLB officially announced the approval of expanded instant replay for use during the 2014 season, whose terms were modified after negotiations with the MLBPA and WUA.24 According to its terms, managers will be allotted one challenge per game (two if the first challenge results in an overturned call) while the umpiring crew chief will be empowered to initiate a review in innings 7 and later. The umpires will also be allowed to review a home run call at any time, even during innings #1-6. Once a call is challenged an umpire requests a video review, fellow umpires in New York's Replay Command Center will watch video of the play in question using the "indisputable video evidence" standard when deciding whether to overturn a call. The following plays will be reviewable under the system:
- Ground-rule doubles
- Fan interference calls
- Boundary calls (managers may not, however, challenge home run or potential home run calls)
- Force plays at all bases, except whether a middle infielder touched second base during the attempt to "turn" a double play
- Tag plays on the base paths—whether a runner was tagged or whether the runner touched a base (an appeal is still required ahead of the latter)
- Fair/foul calls on balls hit into the outfield
- Catch/trap calls on balls hit into the outfield
- Time plays (whether or not a run scored prior to the third out)
- Whether a runner passed a preceding runner
- Scorekeeping issues, including the count, number of outs, score or substitutions
MLB's use of instant replay has already begun to spark controversy. Some fans are upset with the fact that the MLB system solely works in accordance with home run calls and no other part of the game. Such fans may believe the MLB needs to incorporate replay reviews in other areas of the game where missed calls frequently arise, such as:
- Baserunning (whether a player is safe or out on the bag)
- Plate Calling (whether a player is out or not at home plate)
- Non-Fair Fly Ball Spectator Interference (whether a player should be out or safe on foul balls)
- Whether or not a batter is hit by a pitch
Umpire Jim Joyce's incorrect safe call at first base on June 2, 2010 which deprived Detroit Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga of a perfect game has led to calls for using instant replay beyond deciding home runs.25
- Curry, Jack (August 27, 2008). "Baseball to Use Replay Review on Homers". New York Times. Retrieved 2008-10-01.
- "GMs vote 25-5 to use replay to aid home run decisions". ESPN.com. November 6, 2007.
- "Marlins object to umps watching TV". CNN. June 1, 1999.
- "Marlins' 'Replay' Protest Denied". Los Angeles Times. June 4, 1999.
- "NL president: Umpire erred in consulting replay". CNN. June 2, 1999.
- "Instant Replay at a Glance". October 20, 2010.
- Instant replay goes off without a hitch
- Umpires don't use replay in Classic
- "Instant Replay Debuts at World Baseball Classic", Close Call Sports, March 8, 2013
- MLB.com 6/19/09 Tigers rain down runs on Brewers
- "Discussions: Replaying a Home Run". Close Call Sports/Umpire Ejection Fantasy League. Retrieved 18 August 2011.
- "Ejections: Brian O'Nora (1)". Close Call Sports/Umpire Ejection Fantasy League. Retrieved 18 August 2011.
- "Ejections: Joe West (7)". Close Call Sports/Umpire Ejection Fantasy League. Retrieved 4 September 2011.
- "Expanded Replay Not on Par for Opening Day 2013", Close Call Sports/Umpire Ejection Fantasy League, February 19, 2013
- "MLB to expand instant replay in 2014". ESPN.com. August 15, 2013. Retrieved August 15, 2013.
- "Instant replay testing to be conducted at Arizona Fall League." MLB (Press release). November 1, 2013.
- "AFL Instant Replay Update: Umpires Perfect in Game 1." Close Call Sports/Umpire Ejection Fantasy League. Retrieved 6 November 2013.
- "AFL Instant Replay Update: Video Reverses Call in Game 2." Close Call Sports/Umpire Ejection Fantasy League. Retrieved 7 November 2013.
- "AFL Instant Replay: 20% of Challenged Calls Overturned." Close Call Sports/Umpire Ejection Fantasy League. Retrieved 10 November 2013.
- Imber, Gil. "Confirmed: MLB Hires 7 New Umpires to Full-Time Staff." Close Call Sports/Umpire Ejection Fantasy League. Retrieved 14 January 2014.
- "MLB clubs unanimously approve expansion of instant replay." Major League Baseball (Press Release). Retrieved 17 January 2014.
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