Major League Baseball will have expanded instant replay next season and it will look a lot like the NHL’s system.
All replays will be reviewed from MLB Advanced Media headquarters in New York, as the NHL does with its situation room in Toronto. And while managers’ challenges represent a step the NHL has yet to take, this could be just be the first example of other sports borrowing hockey’s centralized-replay model.
“One thing that a central location does is it brings consistency to your calls,” senior VP of hockey operations Mike Murphy said in a phone interview. “So the call you get tonight is probably going to be the same as the call tomorrow night or the next night because it’s the same people doing it.”
When the goal is to get the call right, making all the decisions in one place should help as baseball goes from looking at just home runs to almost everything except balls and strikes. If a manager wants to challenge a call, he has a chance to do so, and from the seventh inning on the umpire who’s serving as the crew chief can initiate review if he sees fit.
That’s more expanded than what the NHL does, and it could serve as a glimpse into hockey’s future. But for now, as MLB special assistant and former manager Tony La Russa pointed out, baseball is doing a “historic thing” in brushing off tradition to be more accurate.
It’s no coincidence that the move to centralized replay came after MLB senior VP of standards and on-field operations Joe Garagiola Jr. visited the NHL’s situation room.
“Well, we’ve had meetings in here with both the NBA and the NFL. Years ago Major League Baseball did come in here,” Murphy said. “We’ve had horse racing come in and look at our place. ... We’ve had a lot of sports. We’ve had Aussie rugby come in a couple of months ago and look at our setup here.”
So as much grief as NHL officiating gets at times, there’s reason to believe the league’s review process — at least when it comes to whether the puck crossed the line — is the best system available for professional leagues.
MLB umpires previously checked out home-run calls themselves using monitors within the stadium, similar to how NFL referees went “under the hood” on the sideline to look at various replays. Now, everything will go to New York.
That could be coming to the NFL, too, as commissioner Roger Goodell has broached that possibility an effort to improve speed and accuracy.
“We always think we can improve,” Goodell told NFL.com at league meetings last month. “Consistency is important. By bringing it into the league office on Sundays and having one person actually making that decision, you can make an argument there’s consistency.”
Baltimore Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti said centralized replay could expedite the replay-review process and make it “fairer” for referees, who have held extra responsibilities since the NFL instituted coach’s challenges.
That’s baseball’s hope, as it will hire someone to work in a position similar to Murphy’s to oversee the logistical aspects of instant replay. After many years of debate, MLB is finally embracing the technology that’s available.
“If I’m a manager, if (replay) goes against me, I think you want to win if you should win and you don’t want to get beat by something that was a miss that is now (able to be) corrected,” La Russa said.
NHL coaches agree with that sentiment.
“In the end, all we want is the right call,” Anaheim Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau said in a phone interview. “I think that’s what both teams want.”
Boudreau would be in favour of a coach’s challenge system in the NHL similar to what baseball will implement. Managers will be able to challenge one play — any or all aspects of it — and then if a call is overturned get to challenge a second one.