Major League Baseball owners have agreed to test two different advanced replay systems live during games starting next week, and if they prove accurate they could precede an overhaul of the system for the 2013 season, sources told Yahoo! Sports.
MLB will analyze a radar-based system and a camera-based system, both similar to the one used in tennis for down-the-line fair-or-foul calls. Yankee Stadium and Citi Field will be the guinea-pig parks for the systems, which have been installed recently.
The use of the systems will be strictly in the background and for analysis. Because the number of questionable plays during games is likely to be limited, MLB plans to do extra testing on non-game days. Before implementing the technology in its 30 ballparks, the league wants to ensure its accuracy is up to standard.
Because of Armando Galarraga's blown perfect game in 2010 and seemingly nightly missed calls, the outcry for replay has grown loud enough that it forced MLB to at least consider a wide-ranging proposal presented at the owners' meetings this week in Denver. While they have balked at the cost of instituting replay – estimates range from $30 million to $40 million for infrastructure and equipment, plus the salaries for 15 extra umpires if indeed MLB uses one in a replay booth – owners did give the go-ahead to assess the new systems.
Jeff Passan also mentions that there are some high-ranking baseball officials who remain "dubious" on the notion of expanded replay, but the prevailing sentiment appears to be that this is something worth pursuing, and that baseball, as a whole, has some motivation to kill the perception that it has an antediluvian mindset towards the use of technology in getting as many calls right as possible.
So, yeah, this is a step forward, and hopefully this gains some traction and the test run goes smoothly and baseball makes the commitment to move forward on this ... I think. See, the replay system that MLB is exploring is grand and all when applied to fair/foul calls down the lines, but as Ken Rosenthal explained back in June, this system isn't designed to handle safe/out calls on the basepaths, which would seem to rank first or second in terms of inaccuracy/inconsistency along with ball/strike calls (which aren't going to be evaluated by robot umpires anytime soon, if word from people within the game is to be believed):
The Hawk-Eye system would be the fastest and smartest way to address fair/foul calls beyond the first- and third-base bags. But an investment in the technology wouldn’t be the most efficient way for baseball to allocate its resources if it wanted additional replay in the future.
Baseball would need to install Hawk-Eye equipment in all 30 parks — and the equipment, which only would be used for fair/foul calls, would become obsolete if baseball wanted to expand replay to the bases.
The scope of replay remains baseball’s biggest decision, the one from which all other choices will follow.
Almost no one in the industry wants replay for ball-strike calls, sources say. Approximately 80 home-run calls per season, about one every two days, are reviewed under the current system. Baseball officials estimate that the number of questionable fair/foul calls would be 20 per day. Hawk-Eye could resolve those. “Trap” plays, like home runs, would be reviewed on video.
Actually, now that I think about it, I don't know why Rosenthal believes this Hawk-Eye setup would become obsolete if safe/out calls were to be moved within the purview of replay. I presume safe/out calls would be handled by way of slow-mo, HD replay rather than an automated system like Hawk-Eye, so I don't exactly understand why that would stop being useful.
In any event, this is a nice step in the right direction, and even though the anti-replay faction in the commissioner's office (read: Selig/Torre) probably isn't thrilled about this, we may be at a point in the instant replay revolution where this kind of progress is both inevitable and unstoppable.