Categorized | Baseball

Umpire-manager arguments are about to get a makeover

Arguing with umpires isn’t going away — it’s as much a part of the game as peanuts and hot dogs. But, just as some ballparks offer sushi and craft beer, the umpire argument is about to get a radical transformation.

The introduction of a challenge system for instant replay reviews for the 2014 baseball season — assuming it’s ratified by the owners, the players’ union and the umpires –  is perhaps the most radical innovation in baseball since the designated hitter was introduced 40 years ago.

How will it work? Managers will be allowed one challenge over the first six innings and two from the seventh inning until the completion of the game. Calls that are challenged will be reviewed by video at MLB headquarters in New York, which will make a final ruling. That’s in an effort to avoid being influenced by local forces.

So there should be fewer arguments between umps and managers, but there might be more. Only reviewable plays — fair/foul, home runs, force outs, catch or trap — can be challenged. If a play isn’t reviewable — balls and strikes, for example — we’ll still get managers turning back the clock to Earl Weaver and Lou Piniella, trying to get their points across to the men in blue.

The New York Times’ Benjamin Hoffman wrote a primer on how the system will work, and some circumstances that could arise (such as where runners would be placed if a call is reversed from foul to fair on a double down the line, for example).

“When you call me back a year after this process has been in place, there will be precise and clear answers to all these issues,” said Atlanta Braves president John Schuerholz. “We will have experienced it in real time and know what functions and what hasn’t. We think we’ve covered most of that now, and we’re still working on creating the guidelines for some of those situations. But we believe that this is a significant first big step toward using this great new technology of instant replay.”

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