The challenges that are being referred to are manager challenges. Each team is allowed one manager challenge per game in Major League Baseball, and two in an All-Star game.
What is a manager challenge?
A manager challenge is the name of the motion of a manager challenging the decision made by the umpire in any given play.
If a manager of a team decides that there is something amiss in the way that the umpire has ruled a decision, they can use a challenge in a play to contest it. This action will sometimes lead to a change in the decision, but sometimes it will not.
What happens to the ability to challenge based on the decision?
The club will keep the manager challenge if the officials watching the replay decides to overturn the challenged call. They will lose the manager challenge if the call is not overturned. A club will lose the ability to use a manager challenge when they are all used up depending on the outcome that the replay officials decide upon.
Who makes the decision?
The game is watched by off duty umpires that work as reviewers of the game when they are not on the field. They are constantly watching the game to make calls based on the reviewable footage that an umpire on the field may not be able to make.
The decisions that can be made include that a decision on the field remains the same, changes due to a review of the challenged play, or even that it is left to stand since there is not enough clear visible evidence for the replay officials to make the call.
How many challenges in each play?
A manager is allowed to challenge an unlimited number of calls that are reviewable in one single play. This will still only use up one challenge.
So, even if a manager challenge is used three times in one play, this is still only using up one manger challenge for the club. Each play will then be reviewed according to the challenges that arose from the club, and the decision will be made by the replay officials as usual.
How long does a manager have to voice that they want to challenge?
A manager of a club will have 20 seconds to verbally alert the umpire that they want to challenge a play. This is new to 2020, since the time frame used to be 30 seconds.
If this time passes before the manager makes clear that they want to challenge the play or decision that the umpire made, then the game will go on without any challenges being exercised.
This change in time from 30 seconds to 20 seconds is quite significant in that it makes the game flow faster, but also gives the manager a lot less time to decide if they agree or disagree or simply want to challenge the umpire’s decision.
Does the manager need to say what they think the call should be?
No, the manager of a club is allowed to challenge a call that the umpire makes without having to specify what they think is the case. It is usually in their best interest not to anyway, because they may be wrong in both instances, and then who gets the correct call? See, it could get quite complicated.
The one thing that the manager does have to be clear on is the exact play that they are referring to when they want to challenge the umpire’s decision. The reason that the manager will usually never state what they think the call should be, is that the replay officials obviously have a much clearer view on their screens and even have the ability to, you guessed it, replay the footage without limit.
To state what you think the call should be when you can only see as much as the umpire can as a manager would be unhelpful.
Can the replay officials do anything about unchallenged calls?
No. Even if they can see that the umpire’s call is wrong, they are only allowed to review the footage in the context of a manager challenge. This is mainly due to the fact that a game would probably take twice as long to play if everything was constantly challenged.
And for the majority of a baseball game, the umpire’s word goes. The only time this isn’t always the case is when a manager challenge is utilized.
When did this review and replay stuff come into being?
Here’s a little bit of baseball history for you. In 2008, Major League baseball saw the first use of replay review on homerun calls that were disputed. From 2014, managers were then given one challenge per game, but were given a second provided that the first challenge they made gave an overturned call.
The 30 second window was changed to a 20 second one before the 2020 season of Major League Baseball. So, all of this is relatively new to baseball.
Managers are allowed one challenge per game, unless it is an All-Stars game, in which they are allowed two challenges. When a manager challenges the decision of an umpire, a team of umpires and professionals will review the footage until they can see clearly what the call should be.
The decision can either stay the same, change from the umpire’s choice, or even stay undecided if there is not enough clear evidence. Once a challenge has been used up in a game, the manager will no longer be able to utilize the manager challenge.