The MLB instant replay system is coming under fire after this past weekend, with the strongest criticisms coming from Boston Red Sox manager John Farrell and Washington Nationals skipper Matt Williams, each of whom got burned when calls that should have been overturned in their favor were left standing.
Farrell got insult added to injury on Sunday night when a key call that looked as close as could be, was overturned against him—though in fairness, as a partisan Red Sox fan, I thought last night’s call was resolved correctly.
I think the main problem is unrealistic expectations. While I get Farrell’s annoyance in the moment—mainly because I share it—replay officials are going to make some mistakes. It happens in the NFL, it happens in college football and it will happen here. The number of mistakes vis-à-vis the number of calls is still pretty small.
My big-picture issue with the way MLB instant replay is being handled by the managers themselves. Every time a call is close, we see the skipper take a slow walk to visit the umpire, all the while looking back over his shoulder at the bench coach, as the replays are being reviewed, waiting for a signal on whether to challenge or not.
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I understand why managers are doing this, but it’s a waste of time. This is a sport where people are already looking for ways to speed up the game, and adding multiple managerial visits is only going to make it worse. If a manager thinks the call is wrong, go ahead and challenge it. Otherwise, stay in the dugout. There’s no inherent right to have a guaranteed overturn if you challenge.
On balance though, I think MLB instant replay is working well. It needs a few tweaks, but the main tweak is making sure that a manager’s constant visits don’t further slow down the game.