It’s not a secret that I hate replay. I am by no means a baseball traditionalist entirely opposed to change. I simply think the existence of replay makes the game worse by adding delay while providing little tangible benefit. Replay exist to “get the calls right,” but more often than not, managers challenge calls they know to be right or plays that are too close to know for sure. There’s no downside to a lost challenge, and huge upside to a won challenge.
It’s all infuriating to watch. Managers often challenge calls in the 7th, 8th, or 9th inning because they have a challenge left to burn. A call the manager would ordinarily let stand in the 1st inning suddenly becomes something worth sending to the replay booth in New York because the game is almost over. Fans have to sit there and watch umpires stand around wearing headsets at the point in the game where it already begins to drag due to frequent pitching changes. Late-game “Hail Mary” replays also illustrate the biggest paradox of the system. It exits to ensure an obviously wrong call doesn’t stand (think Armando Galarraga’s non-perfect game). Yet, the close call that could go either way–thus a play less worthy of a challenge–take the longest to review as replay officials parse every possible camera angle.
Aside from acting as a safety net to prevent a Galarraga perfect game mishap, replay has achieved one other positive result. Managers rarely argue with umpires anymore since they now have a more productive outlet for their disagreements. Some traditionalists may lament this, but I don’t. It, too, was a waste of time, since managers hardly ever succeeded in changing the umpire’s mind. Managers argued for catharsis or to “fire their team up.” Earl Weaver made arguing with umpires part of his brand, and his ejection record reflected that.
Since replay started to poison Major League Baseball, I’ve brainstormed ways to discourage unnecessary challenges. Recently, MLB imposed a 30-second time limit for managers to challenge. This doesn’t solve the problem; in fact it might make the problem worse since managers now have less time to know whether their challenge is a worthwhile one. Here’s my solution. If a manager loses a challenge, he’s ejected from the game. If you waste our time with a pointless challenge, go to the showers. This might sound harsh, or even unfair since replay often returns unexpected results. But that is entirely the point. Replay is there to fix obvious mistakes. It’s not a late-game dice roll when things aren’t going your way. I’m more convinced now more than ever MLB needs to dis-incentivize a bad replay challenge. Publicly humiliating a manager who wastes our time is a good start.