Baseball’s Instant Replay and the Value of Getting It Right

Opinions Posted Jun 9, 2014 by chenpr

Two months into the 2014 Major League Baseball season it’s evident that instant replay is a permanent, beneficial fixture in the league. Introduced despite the protestations of detractors, early reactions have been mixed; vocal critics are likely a reflection of a fan’s preferred baseball media consumption at a time when ginned-up conflict sells on sports radio.

Implemented by MLB Executive Vice President and former Yankee skipper Joe Torre, baseball’s version of instant replay allows a manager one challenge per game (two if the first challenged play is overturned) to be used on a designated set of reviewable plays (essentially all non-judgment calls). The on-field umpires put on a headset and talk to a group of in-studio umpires, working in a room in New York City to relay the correct call.

As the use of replay in baseball continues to work itself out, prominently featured in sports media and game broadcasts as a point of controversy, I believe the best way to evaluate the tool is through the lens of other professions.

In my job as a public relations professional there have been times that instant replay might have come in handy, and I’d have used it gladly. Public relations is a fast-moving, competitive atmosphere. PR-types seek an ear with an audience that isn’t always compelled to listen, and the ability to replay our faults not only would give us a chance at success, but would allow us to learn from our mistakes and correct them in real time. A doctor who recently administered an overdose of medicine for a patient would certainly appreciate the chance to call the control center, get an accurate ruling and replay the dosage. The same applies to an accountant that committed a terrible error on a corporate audit. Baseball now has the tools to get it right, and that should be priority number one in any profession, mine included.

And for the purists out there griping about the breaks in action, consider the average baseball game takes approximately three hours, and the average replay takes just over two minutes. According to an article posted on June 1st in the Washington Post, baseball is only averaging one challenge per two games, and the average game is being delayed just over a minute by challenges; pretty insignificant if you ask me. Others argue that part of baseball’s appeal is the human element, and while I tend to agree, we should use the technology we have to take obvious human error out of the game. To illustrate my point, watch this video. I bet Armando Galarraga would agree; Jim Joyce, too.