Expanded Replay Approved for the Korea Baseball Championship

The Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) will allow the use of instant replay review beginning today (July 22, 2014) as details have been finalized during the Managers Meeting held on Friday.  The official name of this system is “Umpire Agreed Jugdment Call” (심판 합의 판정).

From now on the following plays may be subjected to instant replay review:

  • Fair/foul calls on home runs.
  • Fair/foul calls on balls hit to the outfield.
  • Force plays and tag plays.
  • Catch/trap calls (including foul tips).
  • Hit-by-pitch calls.

Then, who can initiate a challenge, and how is this done?

  • Only the manager (when manager is not present at the game, the coach who takes his place) can initiate a challenge.
  • The manager must tell the umpire who made the call within 30 seconds after the call has been made.
  • If the play involves the final out of an inning or a game, the manager must initiate the challenge within 10 seconds after the judgment call.
  • Managers are allotted one challenge per game.  If the challenge results in an overturned call, the manager is given one additional challenge.
  • However, a review on fair/foul calls on home runs is unlimited.

Once a challenge is issued, the disputed play will be reviewed by the following people: the umpire who made the disputed call, crew chief, reserve umpire (the KBO has a five-man umpire crew in case of an emergency), and an official from the Committee of On-field Matters (the KBO sends an official to each game).  They will review the play in the umpire’s room using televised broadcasts as in the case of reviewing home run calls.  However, the initial call will stand without a review if:

  • the play was not exposed on live broadcast;
  • the game is not being broadcast;
  • the play cannot be reviewed due to technical issues (delay or halt in the broadcast).

Thus, the title “Umpire Agreed Jugdment Call” has been named.  I am guessing this has two meanings.  One is that the umpire who made the disputed call would be agreeing to accept the challenge.  And, two, instead of having a control center reviewing the plays, the umpires (along with a KBO official) will be agreeing on a final judgment after reviewing themselves while talking through radio with the broadcasting network.

Now, there are a few things you should know about the KBO in order to understand why they are doing it this way.

  1. Unlike Major League Baseball, which is a corporation that brings in billions of dollars, the Korea Baseball Organization’s main body is a non-profit organization that falls within the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism.  In other words, the KBO faces a number government restrictions when it comes to creating revenue.  (In fact, you will be quite astonished at the level of government control in South Korean sports.)  Therefore, the KBO does not have the resource to install high-tech video equipment or hire additional people to manage the system.
  2. The authority of umpires is heavily protected by the league.  There was a time when umpires were looked down and mistreated.  Now things have changed to the other extreme.  Although they may not earn as much as big league umpires, they do work under a relatively good system that safeguards their integrity and minimize the psychological load they have to endure.  (One clue is that you will not see replays of close calls on the scoreboard at the stadium.)  Needless to say, the league did their best to maintain this value as much as possible, and you can see this clearly by reading the aforementioned title of this new rule.
  3. Another issue the league is extremely concerned is game time.  Despite all the rule changes to speed up the game, the average game time has increased to 3:25 (up from 3:20 in 2013) this season.  The time limits for managers to initiate a challenge, and number of plays subjected for a review tells it all.


So, the KBO is trying their best with what they have (and within their boundaries).  But, of course, a bundle of comments and improvements will be waiting for them once the season is over.




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