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An umpire’s job is to get the call right. However, when a manager disagrees with a call that a Major League Baseball (MLB) umpire makes, he has no recourse. Managers are often seen running out of the dugout, yelling at the umpire, kicking dirt on the umpire’s shoes, and, all too often, getting themselves ejected. Regardless of managers’ antics, however, incorrect calls are rarely overturned unless another umpire has a better angle.
These are some of the reasons behind baseball’s decision to implement instant replay starting next season. It will be a coach’s challenge system, wherein a manager is allowed to challenge “reviewable” plays in the first six innings until he gets one wrong. From the seventh inning on, the manager can challenge until he gets two wrong (the challenge from the first six innings will not carry over). Once the coach initiates a challenge, the home plate umpire picks up a phone on the side of the field and calls a replay official in a New York studio, who will tell the umpire whether the call is upheld or overturned. In simulation games, the average replay delay was 1 minute, 19 seconds, which is just enough for TV to make some drama out of each video replay.
This is a step in the right direction for MLB. Teams need their managers to make tough decisions throughout the game, and every time a hot-headed manager gets ejected for arguing a call that will not be overturned (even if it’s incorrect), it hurts the team (although it does sometimes make for great TV). Next year, instead of seeing coaches yelling and screaming to no avail, you will see them running out of the dugout, possibly still hot-headed, and saying one word: “challenge.” This is not to say that the replay officials will always get it right–they are still humans making judgment calls. But I think everyone who has seen replay expand in the NFL will agree that it helps officials get more calls correct–especially the obvious ones that on-field officials just miss.
With replay expanding in sports, the next place it could be put to better use is the courtroom. In many criminal cases, there is a dispute over what happened when the police stopped or arrested the defendant. Was the defendant pulled over for a legitimate reason? Did the defendant actually consent to the stop? Was the defendant coerced into anything? For many courts determining the answers to these questions, there is nothing more than the officer’s testimony, unless the defendant decides to testify. Would it not be great for the lawyers on both sides to have access to the video showing exactly what the officer actually did? Sometimes, it may show that the officers acted poorly. At other times, it would allow the officers to prove exactly how strictly they followed protocol. Either way, state legislatures should explore expanded recording requirements for police officers’ vehicles, in order to ensure that the courts get the call right.
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