Last summer when Bud Selig and his friends announced the expanded replay system, most baseball fans celebrated the fact that the league finally took a step towards utilizing the tools at their disposal to better the game. As a "new age" baseball fan who thinks that umpires shouldn't exist at all, I was quite pleased with the announcement and thought it would be a great addition to the 2014 season. I was very wrong. It shouldn't be surprising anymore that Bud Selig is a bit clueless when it comes to making wise decisions, but I thought instant replay would be something you couldn't possibly screw up. But then this stuff started happening:
via Business Insider
Although it looks like Tampa Bay bench coach Dave Martinez is telling his mom he's not getting off the phone for dinner, he's actually signalling to Joe Maddon that he shouldn't challenge the play. How did anyone at MLB think it was good idea to give teams the opportunity to stall the game while they watched replays to decide if they should challenge the umpire's decision. Teams in the NFL usually have a chance to check the replays before challenging as well, but that doesn't include a head coach slowly walking on to the field and asking the referee what he had for lunch while someone tells him if he should challenge.
It's still unclear why this stalling is being allowed considering it completely defeats the purpose of a streamlined challenge system. Currently, it's a combination of a team's video department being good at watching replays alongside the ability of a manager to make as much small talk as possible with the umpire. Even Blue Jays manager John Gibbons told John Lott that he isn't a huge fan of the stalling:
You go out to say to the ump, ‘I’m just waiting to see that guy [signal from the bench], and they know, so ‘what do you want to talk about,’ that kind of thing."
While the league will begin to announce how reviews only take an average of something like 90 seconds, they'll fail to mention the extra two minutes it took for a team's bench coach to make an awkward subtle signal to a manager who is dancing around the umpire so he has a view of his own dugout. With this stalling, replays go on for minutes completely killing any flow the game had beforehand. That's not even mentioning how the actual replay process consists of a man carrying out a briefcase onto the field that contains two bulky set of headphones that don't always even work.
If I were Bud Selig the first thing I would do is resign, but after that I would immediately make some tweaks to the instant replay rules. Managers would get a flag similar to the way they do in the NFL, which they would throw on the field when they want to challenge. If they stepped on the field of play they would no longer be allowed to challenge the play. The umpire would come over and ask the manager what they wanted to challenge and then the black briefcase would be on the field in no time. Teams would only have ten seconds to decide if they wanted the umpires to take another look at the play on the field, eliminating the chance to look at the replay themselves before throwing their flag. There's no obvious downside to this solution and it would shave minutes off the time it takes to review a call on the field. Challenging would also have some skill involved, instead of the current rules where teams just watch the exact same replays the umpires will watch if they end up asking for a review.
Regardless of what changes are made to the instant replay process, here's hoping they come before the end of the season. After the first 48 games of the season, average game length was up seven minutes from last year which is quite an increase even considering the small sample. With future generations becoming more and more in need of constant action the last thing MLB needs to do is make games drag on even longer, losing hoards of young viewers in the process.