The addition of expanded instant replay to help the Bud Selig's beloved "human element" is nigh. Selig has expressly given his approval, calling it, "A historic day."
Unfortunately, Major League Baseball's version of instant replay ended up a needlessly convoluted NFL style challenge system.
As first reported by FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal and confirmed by Ken Davidoff of the New York Post, in the expanded review system each team receives one challenge in the first six innings, and two additional challenges from the seventh inning until the end of the game. Almost every play will have the ability to be reviewed. The only calls off limits will be balls and strikes, which will remain judgement calls by the umpires. Currently, MLB only uses replay review to verify home runs.
MLB will not depend on replays from television coverage. Bob Nightengale of The USA Today reports camera systems are to be set up at every major league stadium, along with a monitoring system at MLB's New York headquarters staffed with a full umpiring crew. But the final decision will still be made by the on-field umpires.
The cost to setup a league-wide replay system is expected to be anywhere from $25 to $40 million, a relative drop in the bucket of MLB's coffers.
As any NFL fan knows, a challenge system is far from a cure all, creating a separate set of headaches. All too often a team is forced to burn their challenges early, then left without the ability to challenge another call. After years of sticking to a strict challenge system and it's inherent issues, the NFL recently improved replay review. They did this by taking the challenge option away from head coaches at certain points of the game, instituting an booth review system. NFL officials now review all all scoring plays and turnovers, and hold sole discretion as to what plays are reviewed in the final two minutes of the half.
There's also the time factor. A review system, no mater how limited or inclusive, could add to the length of a game. MLB games now run an average of 2:50, up significantly from the 2:30 game length in the 1970's. Many NFL replays can take five minutes or more, which has played a large part in the average game length increasing to well over over three hours.
The replay proposal required a 75% ownership majority for the rules changes to be approved. Being the owners have moved forward with expanded instant replay, both the MLBPA and umpire's union still have to give their OK before the plan can be implemented.