Looks like managers will have to be stingy with their challenges

Ed Zurga

A few years ago, Major League Baseball instituted a revolutionary (for baseball) system to review questionable calls involving home runs. Hard to believe, but we've now had video review for five full seasons (along with a few days at the tail end of the 2008 season). Three hundred and eighty four calls have been reviewed, and 129 of those calls, almost exactly one-third, have been changed.

Anybody out there have some serious time on their hands? One thing that I think has never been done is a full analysis of the impact of video review. How many runs lost, how many runs gained. How many games lost, how many games won. Has a postseason berth been gained or lost due to the effects of video review?

In all likelihood it's been a wash. Baseball history would probably look almost exactly the same today without video review. It would be fun to know the details, though.

Anyway, we've had it for a while and Commissioner Bud said that was plenty enough replay until we had it for a while and everybody even Commissioner Bud realized the world wasn't going to explode and so now we're going to have more next season. You'll recall there was some talk about giving managers x number of challenges, but with x being different depending on which inning it was. Well, that part seems to have gone away:

There was some testing last week in the Arizona Fall League -- which I wrote about here and here -- and it quickly became apparent that close plays abound. At least in the raw-prospect-laden Arizona Fall League. The testing wasn't as extensive as it might have been, and now I realize it was more about the technology than the associated frequency and procedures. And the technology seems to have worked brilliantly, with decisions rendered quickly and accurately.

The decision to remove any distinction among innings is a good one. The other way would have been needlessly complicated. The problem, of course, is that calls are still going to be missed, and some of them will come in the late innings and drive people insane. There will be many, many games in which a manager uses both of his challenges in the early or middle innings. If the game's close, he should use them! Because you don't know if the game will still be close in the late innings.

But managers are going to run out of challenges, in good faith and for good reasons, and it's going to get ugly in the late innings. This is inevitable. What's also inevitable: the system will eventually be changed to account for that ugliness. Maybe it's just three challenges instead of two, or maybe it's an extra umpire who simply orders a review of every questionable call. Maybe this happens next May, and maybe it happens in 2016. But now that video review is a big part of the game, it will forever be subject to adjustments.

So if you don't like this version of replay, don't worry; another will be along soon.

Of course, the best reason for limiting manager challenges is that they'll necessarily slow down the game, and lengthen it. I wrote about this last week, and suggested that, while there's nothing to be done about the pace, something might be done about the length: Use challenges for commercial breaks, and shave a few commercial breaks elsewhere. That would be really, really easy. Today, the breaks between half-innings are much longer than they used to be; it would be really, really easy to cut a few of those breaks by 30 seconds.

That's a great idea I had! It was also incredibly unrealistic, considering the rapacious nature of Baseball's Lords ...

A good chunk? I suspect that commercial sponsorships will more than cover the cost of expanded review, leaving a few clams for the Lords to spread around. Which is a good thing, I guess. Because those guys have been hurting.

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