On October 14th, 2012 in Game 2 of the ALCS the call for expanded instant replay reached its fever pitch. Detroit Tigers second baseman Omar Infante was called safe at second in the eighth inning of the game against the Yankees, which TV replays showed was incorrect, and the Tigers went on to win.
After years of discussion among fans and the media about the need for replay reviews, an easily correctable call had been blown in a playoff game at a key moment. It seemed, at last, that Major League Baseball would take a legitimate step towards expanding replay.
MLB already has some replay in determining whether a hit ball is a home run or not. Outside of that though, there are no other reviewable plays despite the abundance of easily reviewable calls.
Despite the calls for replay to be expanded, Commissioner Bud Selig continued to be tone deaf to what the fans want. Like Nero and his fiddle, Selig continued to ignore the situation around him, last July he stated that the "appetite for more replay in the sport is very low."
However the blown call in the ALCS, coupled with the infield fly debacle in the NL Wild Card game, led to what seemed to be a changed commissioner.
This got fans everywhere dreaming of the possibilities that expanded replay could bring. Debates on what exactly should be covered by the new replay rules and what the best method of reviewing plays were heard in all corners of the baseball world.
Some proposals for plays to be covered were: all fair/foul calls, safe/out calls at all bases or at the very least home plate and whether a fly ball was trapped or caught.
Under more debate was how the review process would work. Many worried that expanded replay could bring significant delays to the game, so a streamlined review system became a priority. In that realm MLB had some examples they could follow in their fellow professional leagues.
One proposal was to follow the NFL and more so college football by having an additional official or umpire at the stadium that would deal strictly with reviews. This would lead to a quicker review time than there is now, but could also lead to subjective rulings that come under the ire of fans.
Another idea was to follow the NHL who conducts all of their reviews from a central headquarters based in the league offices in Toronto. This system would be even quicker than the others as the umpires on the field have no real role and would help mitigate the possibilities of bias and subjectivity.
But all of these discussions and dreams of the possibilities of replay in Major League Baseball were for naught as MLB decided to stand pat with the system they had in 2013.
Despite calls for replay from fans, the media, managers and executives and what seemed to be the flash point in the blown call in the ALCS, MLB continues to do a disservice to their fans by hiding behind poor excuses about a lack of technology.
In some aspects MLB is enjoying some of its most successful years in decades. Parity in the league has reached new heights — five teams made the playoffs in 2012 who didn’t in 2011, and new regional TV deals are now getting into the billions.
But in one aspect they remain woefully behind. The game’s fear of embracing new technologies, if not rectified soon, will begin to alienate it from fans that have come to expect bad calls to be quickly corrected. 2013 needs to be the last year without expanded replay in Major League Baseball.