Expanded MLB Replay Has Opportunity to Enhance In-Stadium Experience

January 17, 2014

The owners of all Major League Baseball teams voted unanimously to expand instant replay in baseball starting in the 2014 season. The majority of plays will be eligible for replay review with managers receiving one challenge per game. If the challenge is successful, the manager receivers another. From the seventh inning and on, the umpires can decide to review any play on the field regardless of whether the manager still has a challenge available or not.

While this seems to be a positive step for MLB, some are concerned with the impact it will have on the speed of the game. The reviews will take place by an umpiring crew in a command center at the MLB offices in New York and are expected to only take between 60 to 90 seconds for a decision. Some inside the game, though, wonder if players could now stall walking to the batter’s box or if a manager will send out the pitching coach for a meeting on the mound in order to get a few more looks at a replay before an official challenge is issued.

Stoppages like that could add a few minutes to the game, but the added time should be tolerated with the knowledge of having the correct call applied. The expansion of replay should also eliminate managers coming out of the dugout to argue a call. Though manager outbursts can occasionally be entertaining, rarely do they only last the 60 to 90 seconds a replay would take.

Overall attendance did dip in 2013 compared to 2012, but it was only around 1%. Any additional decrease in attendance should not be expected to continue more because of the time additional replay could add. If MLB decides to put the exact replays the umpires are watching up in the stadium like what the NFL did this past season, it could even enhance the in-stadium experience, allowing the fans in attendance to watch replays on the gigantic stadium scoreboards instead of waiting for umpires to make their decision. The NHL, NBA and NFL all have substantial replay systems and none of those impede upon the flow of the game.

Even as overall attendance goes down, the average price for MLB tickets on the secondary market haven’t seen that decrease. The expansion of replay won’t be bringing more fans to the games, but i won’t be driving them away from the ballpark either.