An Open Letter to Baseball, Re: Expanded Video Review

An honest, heartfelt letter to the powers that be behind baseball’s failing version of comprehensive video review—and how our concept can fix it.

By Eric Gouldsberry, This Great Game—Posted April 15, 2014

TGG Opinion

Hello, Baseball. Yes, you probably saw the topic in the headline and don’t want to read this letter. But you need to. 

You have a problem. It’s about your idea of expanded video replay. It’s not working. You know it, we know it. We appreciate you making the effort to get the calls right. We really do. But when you revealed your plans last summer for how this was all going to work, we knew that it wouldn’t. And now, few people are happy with what you got. 

Look around you, Baseball, and see your failure at work. The reviews are taking too long. The managers are making it longer, stalling for time while someone upstairs decides whether they should ask for a review. You have this fantabulous, state-of-the-art command center somewhere in New York with zillions of monitors, and somehow you still can’t queue the smoking-gun angle you need. The players are standing around, waiting. The pitcher’s arm is getting stiff while the minutes tick by. The managers are alternately confused and angry. The fans are booing. This is all a loss, Baseball. 

You see, about four years ago after an umpire blew a call and cost a pitcher the 27th out of a perfect game, we came up with a nice, simple method for expanded video review. It’s so simple, it can be explained in one paragraph, as follows: 

A questionable call is made on the field. The umpire crew chief, wearing a light headset, is alerted by the replay crew located near the press box to call time while it reviews the play. The replay crew gives itself a minute—nothing more—to examine the play in question. If it’s clear that the call was right or wrong, it will take less than a minute to inform the umpire to uphold or overturn the call. If it’s too close to call and a minute passes, it’s likely too inconclusive to determine and the original call stands. The umpire is notified and play resumes. And that’s it. Pure and simple. 

Go ahead and parse through it. Decipher it, try to find holes to build your arguments around. We don’t claim our system to be perfect—as long as the human element exists, nothing is—but you know it’s an investment of far less time and headache than yours. 

For the moment, we’re stuck with your system. It’s a mess. It’s dependent on two elements we warned against: Managerial challenges and quotas. That is, after all, so NFL. 

We get the sensitivity of the challenges. It’s all about managerial pride. We connected the dots when we saw that two of the three gentlemen fronting the video review committee were former managers. They didn’t want to see the modern-day skippers left helpless, unable to define or control the review process. But you know what? The managers don’t want this burden. Many of them have said that they’d rather keep their focus on managing their team, not the umpires. 

And the quotas? If you want all the calls right, it won’t happen using quotas. We sense your fear on this, Baseball; limitless reviews could potentially prolong the time of game to who knows when. But you know what? Ten of our reviews will take as much total time as three of yours. Bank on it. 

Maybe you’re hesitant to change in such haste, especially given how glacial you’ve been to change in the past. True, we’re only a few weeks into this abomination and you’re in deep with a system you’ve poured roughly $50 million into—most of it on that lavish command center you never really needed. Perhaps you’re hoping everyone settles in and gets used to the process. But the problems are too many, the rewards too few; it’s beyond repairing with simple Band-Aids.

We saw this all coming last summer when you announced your intentions and gave all the details. At that time, we said this: “Our hope is that, with any amount of common sense, the people with the final say will outright reject this. If they don’t, trust us: A year from now, they’ll be wishing they had.”

Funny. It hasn’t even been a year yet. The second thoughts are already hitting the fan.

So please, Baseball, take another read through our idea of expanded video replay. We know it’s not your style to take outside advice, but make an exception, just this once.

Fix the problem.

Embrace our solution.

TGG OpinionAfter Further Review: Making the Right Call on Replay As baseball struggles to grasp video replay, here’s our suggestion on how to expand upon it and make it efficient—if not flawless.