One of the worst parts about MLB’s replay system is the overall lack of transparency. You see the play on the field, the numerous replays…and eventually, you hear the decision. You don’t hear the umpires’ line of thinking.
Soon, that may change. MLB and its umpires are discussing a plan to outfit crew chiefs with microphones in order to explain the ruling of a replay.
According to the AP, the process may start at July’s All-Star Game in Miami. It would then continue to be tweaked over the second half of the season before being fully implemented for the playoffs.
Miami Marlins reliever Brad Ziegler is in favor of the plan, mainly due to vague communications from umpires and potential audio issues in ballparks.
“It probably would be nice to get a little more explanation,” Marlins reliever Brad Ziegler said. “They’re supposed to say the call stands or the call’s confirmed. ‘The call stands’ means you can’t tell. A lot of times we don’t get that … they just signal out or safe. That’s all we get on the field.
“They may announce it on the PA, but it doesn’t seem like that is consistent in all parks. And the acoustics in the stadium here — we have a hard time hearing what’s on the PA in the bullpen,” he said.
Boston Red Sox pitcher David Price has thought of an obvious problem with putting mics on the umpires to explain their calls – it’ll take up even more time!
“It’ll take more time,” Boston pitcher David Price said. “It’s not going to make them any shorter.”
As for making the replay system more informative and entertaining, “Yeah, until they have a problem with the umpire’s mic,” he said.
Any change would have to be agreed to by both Major League Baseball and the umpires union, and MLB cannot institute this change unilaterally.
This won’t solve the issue of transparency, however, because the umpires on the field aren’t the ones actually making the replay decision. That call comes from MLB’s central office in New York. The mic’d up umpire will instead just be serving as a middleman, potentially opening himself up to more scorn despite not being the one who made the replay decision in the first place.
There *is* an MLB Replays Twitter account that explains whether each replay stands, is confirmed, or is overturned, but that doesn’t give the reasoning – it’s essentially just saying “look at the video!,” which doesn’t help anyone.
Replay is never going to be a flawless process, but putting microphones on the umpires isn’t going to do a whole lot to help.