Major League Baseball’s Opening day Monday ushered in a new era—that of the video challenge. After more than a century of relying solely on the eyes of umpires for the final word on close calls, America’s pastime launched an expanded instant replay system.
The sport’s new feature was first used in Monday’s game between the Chicago Cubs and Pittsburgh Pirates. The inaugural challenge came from Cubs manager Rick Renteria—taking issue with a call made at first base on a double play. Two minutes later, umpires told him the call was correct.
Later in the game, the Pirates successfully overturned a call with a challenge. Another fruitful Opening Day challenge—the first, in fact—came when the Atlanta Braves challenged a call that Milwaukee Brewer Ryan Braun was safe at first.
Baseball was the last major American sport to introduce video reviews. MLB owners approved the technology in January to review most calls aside from balls and strikes. Before this, replays could only be used to review home runs or boundary calls. The expanded instant replay was first rolled out at this year’s spring training.
Here’s how baseball’s replay review works: Each manager has one challenge per game—and a second if the first is successful. After the sixth inning, if managers are out of challenges, umpires can choose to review plays. Video advisers in teams’ clubhouses can examine replays and let managers know when to challenge umpires’ calls. When a manager notifies umpires of a challenge, a technician connects the umpire crew chief with a video replay command center in New York—which has access to the twelve camera feeds in every ballpark.
How do you feel about MLB's new replay system? What does it add to the game? What does it take away? Is there a better way to go about challenging calls?
Adam Felder, manager of digital analytics at Atlantic Media Company