So Major League Baseball has devised a plan, to start next season, to allow managers to challenge three plays per game. They have exempted balls and strikes and hit batters as calls that can be challenged, but they claim that 89 percent of other plays will be included. They claim that this will actually make games shorter. The average review now lasts 3 minutes and 4 seconds and MLB says the new reviews have been tested at 1 minute and 15 seconds. They say this will shorten on field arguments. As much as I admire Tony LaRussa and Joe Torre, former managers on the replay committee, this proposal will not help baseball.
The most excruciatingly boring aspect of NFL games is the replay. An exciting play like a touchdown occurs and the endless challenges threaten the spontaneous enjoyment and fan reaction. Instead the fan in the stands and viewer at home sits through interminable dead time. Nothing of interest is occurring. Instead of being able to react enthusiastically to plays, fan temper their reaction, because the play may not stand.
The most critical aspect of a baseball game is the interaction between pitcher and batter. Umpires have subjective and differing views of what a strike zone is. We trust them to use their best judgment, but they make mistakes every game. It is accepted that calls tend to even out. But this whole category is being excluded and then the new rule demands a level of visual scrutiny and accuracy that has never been part of the game. The reality of replay is that even with multiple camera angles the play may not be totally clear, which is why baseball has always factored in human judgment, not the charade of mechanical review perfection.
Baseball already fights the perception by potential fans that it is too slow, with too little action. The NFL and college football have vaulted way ahead in terms of television audience and other revenue. This is because there is collision and action on each play and an event feel to the spacing of the games. I love baseball, the heritage, the statistics, the sights and smells of the ballpark -- part of its appeal has always been its' unique traditions. Why tamper with a formula that works? Notwithstanding the popularity of football, the years since the 1994 strike have seen a virtual quadrupling of revenues from television, gate, social media and marketing. The endless complaints of owners of poverty in the prior years have disappeared. This has all occurred without replay.
The arguments over calls are part of the charm and appeal of baseball. Unlike a replay, a manager's drama and gesticulations provide interesting moments. This is a change, which is not needed.