Replay tabbed as a top invention of '08
Time gives nod to baseball's technological achievement
What does Major League Baseball have in common with a retail genetic testing service, an invisibility cloak, the latest Mars rover, futuristic no-fuel vehicles, a robotic hand, a global seed vault, an ingenious public bike system, a bionic eye contact, Michael Phelps' swimwear, airborne wind power and the world's first moving skyscraper?
It is included in Time magazine's Best Inventions of 2008.
"Introduced for this season's stretch run, replay allows teams to contest controversial home run calls for the first time," the magazine wrote. "Using ballpark monitors, umps can review a play from every possible angle. This may add minutes to a game that already suffers from slowness, but that's a small price to pay for making the correct call."
MLB Commissioner Bud Selig said in a statement Tuesday about the distinction: "The limited use of instant replay proved seamless in the 2008 season, and I am pleased that it will be available to benefit our game going forward."
MLB's general managers voted 25-5 last November to ask the league about exploring the possibility of using instant replay on a limited basis. Almost 10 months later, on Aug. 28, the process was put into play and made available through the postseason. Umpires took advantage of modern technology and utilized instant replay seven times -- resulting in five upheld calls and two that were overturned.
All televised MLB games are monitored and staffed by an expert technician and either an umpire supervisor or a former umpire at Major League Baseball Advanced Media headquarters in New York. A television monitor and a secure telephone link to MLBAM, placed next to the monitor, have been installed at all 30 ballparks.
If the crew chief determines that instant-replay review is necessary, he calls the MLBAM technician, who then transmits all desired video footage to the crew chief and the umpire crew on site. The umpire supervisor or former umpire does not have direct communication with any of the umpires on site, and the decision to reverse a call is at the sole discretion of the crew chief.
The standard used by the crew chief when reviewing a play is whether there is clear and convincing evidence that the umpire's decision on the field was incorrect and should be reversed. Does this invention make the world a better place? Yes, if you consider "getting it right" a matter of forward progress.
Getting it right: Instant replay in 2008
|Sept. 3||St. Petersburg||A home-run call on a ball hit by Alex Rodriguez of the Yankees is upheld. Watch|
|Sept. 9||Houston||A double call on a ball hit by Houston's Hunter Pence is upheld. Watch|
|Sept. 19||St. Petersburg||Umpires reverse their initial double call on a home run by Carlos Pena of the Rays. Watch|
|Sept. 23||Houston||A single call on a ball hit by Cincinnati's Joey Votto is upheld. Watch|
|Sept. 24||Seattle||A foul-ball call on a ball hit by Vladimir Guerrero of the Angels is upheld. Watch|
|Sept. 26||Philadelphia||A home-run call on a ball hit by the Nationals' Kory Casto is upheld.|
|Sept. 26||San Francisco||Umpires reverse their initial single call on Giants catcher Bengie Molina's two-run homer. Watch|
"I believe that the extraordinary technology that we now have merits the use of instant replay on a very limited basis," Selig said in advance of the new technology's launch. "The system we have in place will ensure that the proper call is made on home run balls and will not cause a significant delay to the game."
According to GMs and Jimmie Lee Solomon, Major League Baseball's executive vice president of baseball operations, as well as feedback from fans and media, the program was a total success.
"We think that it went flawlessly this year," Solomon said. "We think it's been a tremendous program."
Replay will remain in effect throughout the current Collective Bargaining Agreement, which ends in 2011, unless either the umpires or players union objects.
"We are pleased that we were able to reach this agreement," union chief Donald Fehr said before the debut of instant replay. "Following the World Series, the players will review the matter, and then determine what course to take for the future. While the use of instant replay is an experiment, we hope that ... it will prove to be a success."
No. 1 on the Time list is a retail DNA test pioneered by 23andMe. The $399 product sold is a vial, and those who can afford to pay for this service spit into the device. It is sent to the lab, where 23andMe technicians scan your genome, analyze your DNA in four-six weeks, and tell you the health conditions for which you might be at risk.
"We consider this a revolutionary test that will change the way we think about health care," said Lev Grossman, who determined the list. "Eventually it will become a part of our culture in this society."
It is not known to what extent instant replay will become a part of our culture in this society, as Selig has emphatically stated that the usage now is merely for foolproof boundary rulings and he has no intention of expanding it to further umpiring assistance.
"My opposition to unlimited instant replay is still very much in play. I really think that the game has prospered for well over a century now by doing things the way we did it," Selig said. "But when you look at the technology we now have, and the new ballparks, and even some of the old ballparks that have been reconfigured, there's no question that it was a challenge to the umpires. ... Like anything else in life there are times when you need to make an adjustment."
That was a pretty good adjustment, all right. Even in this limited form, it is impactful enough to be considered one of the greatest inventions of the year.
Mark Newman is enterprise editor of MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.