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Baseball last major sport to embrace instant replay

Jan. 16 was an historic and perhaps overdue day for Major League Baseball. After years of debates and controversial moments, instant replay was finally expanded - as it has been for every other major sport. While baseball already has instant replay for home runs, the approved rule changes on Jan. 16 will bring a full on challenge system to incorporate almost everything else.

Baseball allows umpires to finally use instant replay
Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Starting in the 2014 season, managers can challenge at least one close or debatable play in the first six innings of a game -- and can win another challenge if the call is overturned. After the sixth inning, however, it will be up to a crew chief to call for a replay.

This may be able to prevent game changing, inaccurate calls that decide a game or even a playoff series -- like Don Denkinger wrongly ruling the Kansas City Royals' Jorge Orta safe at first in the ninth inning of Game 6 of the 1985 World Series.

It could have also erased Derek Jeter's home run that little Jeffrey Maier reached out for in Game 1 of the 1996 ALCS, which technically kicked off the New York Yankees' dynasty to come. Perhaps it would have even given Armando Galarraga a perfect game in 2010, if Jim Joyce's call that Jason Donald was safe at first with two outs in the ninth could have been overturned.

However, since late plays like that cannot be challenged by managers in this new system, the crew chief ultimately has to make the call to go to the booth then -- which keeps the human element in play. In addition, the ones who will actually review plays will work in an office at New York.

The system stands to look more like the NFL than the one used for hockey and basketball. Yet even the NFL's reviews aren't perfect, as bad calls often still stand in spite of being looked over. They also slow down an already slow game, in spite of coaches getting a limited number of challenges. Given how baseball can drag on even in the best of times, there will be a lot of scrutiny on how efficient this system is.

Nevertheless, these changes are years overdue, if not decades. Presumably, if baseball took this long to implement them, it will have to make sure it was worth the wait.

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