OPINION: The Faulty MLB Replay System


Siddharth Karthikeya, Staff Writer

In baseball, when an umpire’s call on the field gets challenged, the play is sent to be reviewed by the Major League Baseball (MLB) replay staff in New York. Utilizing dozens of screens, staff, and angles, the replay team’s purpose is to either correct or back up the word of the umpires.

But recently, New York has not been doing its job.

Botching calls left and right, fans and players are furious. Simple calls that could easily be corrected with the advanced camera technology available aren’t being changed as “inconclusive evidence” is cited in every close play.

Oftentimes, when plays are being reviewed, fans at home and in the stadium watch the same angles shown to the replay umpires in New York. More than often, it’s quite easy to tell what the right call should be regardless of fan bias because there’s video evidence as proof.

What’s baffling though, is that professional MLB replay umpires, who are paid to use technology to correct errors in human judgment, refuse to overturn calls. It’s as if the weight of the wrong call on the field sways their judgment away from doing the right thing.

This creates a bad look for the MLB because it appears as if they consciously choose to back up the umpires on the field rather than get the call right. This in turn has led players to question the point of a replay system if calls are never overturned. Isn’t the sole purpose of replay to correct the mistakes made by the umpires?

One of the biggest moments this year where replay absolutely ruined a perfectly good game was when the Philadelphia Phillies played the Atlanta Braves. It was toward the end of the game, and the teams were tied. Running from third to home was Phillies third baseman Alec Bohm. Knowing it was going to be a close call, Bohm slid into home plate hoping to avoid getting tagged out by Braves catcher Travis D’arnaud. And to on-field umpire Lance Barett, Bohm was safe.

Because of the importance of that one run, which could break the tie, the call was reviewed. Replay clearly showed the video to all fans and players of Bohm’s foot missing home plate. It was clear that he was out. However, using “inconclusive evidence” as their excuse once more, the replay team in New York called Bohm safe, agreeing with their umpire friends and angering every Braves fan for miles.

Not only did this botched call end up costing the Braves that game, but it resulted in a slump for the team, as it impacted them mentally as well. Losing a game to something completely out of their control proved to have a devastating impact to the team’s record. Their winning start to the season was nullified by four straight losses in the games after that was thought to have been a result of the botched call in the game prior.

All in all, replay is becoming a big problem and it needs to be fixed right away. When calls get sent up there, they should be fixed, not always agreed with because replay exists to correct human error, not to agree with it.


Photo by Stephen Foskett