As you may have heard, Major League Baseball has approved expanded use of instant replay in 2014 to include coaches' challenges and also a change to how a verdict is reached when a play is challenged. It's the first time baseball is giving managers the ability to formally challenge a play, something that the NFL has been doing for a while now. Which system is better than the other? Let's break it down.
What Type of Play Can Be Challenged?
NFL: Scoring plays, Pass complete/incomplete/intercepted, Runner/receiver out of bounds, Recovery of a loose ball in or out of bounds, Touching of a forward pass, either by an ineligible receiver or a defensive player, Quarterback pass or fumble, Illegal forward pass, Forward or backward pass, Runner ruled not down by contact, Forward progress in regard to a first down, Touching of a kick, Other plays involving placement of the football, and whether a legal number of players is on the field at the time of the snap.
MLB: Home run, ground rule double, fan interference, stadium boundary calls, force play, tag play, fair/foul in outfield only, trap play in outfield only, batter hit by pitch, timing play, touching a base, passing runners, and record keeping.
Advantage: MLB...for the moment. Although both do a good job of including a lot of plays, there is often a lot of confusion in the NFL over what can be challenged. The MLB system may turn out to be confusing too, but for right now it seems pretty simple to understand.
WHEN Can a Play Be Challenged?
NFL: Any time with more than 2 minutes remaining in a half when a team has at least 1 timeout remaining. (And a challenge remaining).
MLB: A manager can challenge a play any time before the seventh inning. After that, it is up to the umpires to review a play.
Advantage: Push. Both systems are essentially the same.
HOW is a Play Challenged?
NFL: Coaches are given a red flag to throw on the field to initiate a challenge.
MLB: Managers have to inform the umpire verbally that they are challenging the play.
Advantage: NFL. I like the flag. No other reason really. Moving on.
How Many Times Can a Coach/Manager Use a Challenge?
NFL: 2. If a team is successful on the first two challenges, they are awarded a third.
MLB: 1. If a team is successful on the first challenge, they are awarded a second.
Advantage: Push. Both have a reward system, which is fine. The NFL allows one more challenge than MLB does, but that's fine with me, because football is a such a fast paced game that there is more room for error.
Who Ultimately Decides What the Final Call Is?
NFL: The crew chief watches replays on the sideline in a booth and ultimately makes a decision. He has access to television replays and can slow them down and look at different angles. He supposedly only has one minute, but we all know this almost always takes longer.
MLB: When a play is challenged, the umpire communicates with MLB Advanced Media's headquarters in New York where another umpire will be. That umpire will watch the replay, make a decision, and relay that back down to the field umpire.
Advantage: TBD. We haven't seen this in action yet, so it's impossible to say which is better, but just from looking at this, it certainly seems like MLB's method is more promising. The umpires have enough to worry about on the field, let someone else watch a replay and figure it out. It's not like they'll be making subjective calls like balls and strikes. I like this idea a lot.
So, which replay system is the best?
Impossible to say since we haven't seen MLB's in action, but right now, MLB certainly seems like it has a cleaner, quicker solution. Whether this remains true throughout the season is yet to be seen. Just remember, baseball is a game that already takes 3+ hours, and if you have replays taking another 5-10 minutes it is going to annoy a lot of people. If it is quick and painless, then I think most will applaud it. If it takes forever, the baseball haters will all let everyone know. Just get ready for a lot of comparisons between these two systems in the coming year.
Eric Cooper is an MLB, NFL and Tech writer for TJRSports. When not watching or writing about sports he enjoys spending time with his wife, son and dog. He also has learned today to never approach NFL players who are in their cars in Target parking lots. You can follow him on Twitter @Eric_TJRSports.