MLB Instant Replay Long Overdue

It’s finally happened: Major League Baseball announced last Tuesday that they are implementing instant replay in professional baseball.

It was a long awaited process, but instant replay has arrived in a park near you, and it will be used to review disputed home run calls including those in question of being fair or foul, in or out of the ballpark, or affected by fan interference.

It is long overdue for Major League Baseball to join the ranks of the three other major sports organizations who have already implemented instant replay. Ideas of establishing the system have been tossed back and forth for a number of years, however Commissioner Bud Selig has greatly opposed its use because of his strong belief in the human element that has defined the tradition of baseball.

But the 2008 season has had more controversial calls regarding home runs than any other in history, forcing Selig to take immediate action.

While the decision to establish an instant replay system has actually been embraced by a number of fans and approved by many of baseball’s top players, the timing of the decision could be critical.

With the American League’s East and Central Division races and the National League’s East and West races tight going into the final month of the season, certain teams might actually be denied a playoff berth due to the lack of instant replay in games prior to last week. It would be unfortunate if a team did not win their division and missed the post-season due to a call that might have affected the outcome of the game had instant replay been available.

On a brighter note, the system will be used in this year’s post-season, which in the past has had controversial moments regarding home runs. The remainder of the 2008 season will be a trial run for the instant replay system, as it will only review disputed home run calls.

If the system succeeds in deciding crucial calls, MLB executives might face the challenge of extending instant replay to much more than just longballs.

Instant replay seems like a good idea on the surface, but if its use expands, it could cause a few problems. After all, reviewing every close play would undermine the role and authority of umpires. Excessive use of instant replay would also extend the length of games, which is the opposite of what the league is currently trying to do.

However it is used, one thing is for sure: instant replay could be up for instant criticism.