Owners approve expanded replay
PARADISE VALLEY, Ariz. -- Baseball's replay age has finally dawned, thanks to Thursday's unanimous approval by owners of what commissioner Bud Selig called a "historic" expansion of replay to correct missed calls.
The new system, which will go into effect this season, will give managers most of the power to trigger reviews, by providing them with one challenge per game, along with a second potential challenge if their first is upheld.
Only after a manager has used up all of his challenges, and only from the seventh inning on, would umpires be authorized to initiate a review on their own.
For the first time, calls at first base, at the plate and on the bases will be reviewable. There will be limited exceptions, including the fabled "neighborhood play" at second base. But MLB executive Tony La Russa, one of the architects of the new system, estimated that almost 90 percent of all potential calls are now reviewable.
Disputed home runs will be reviewed under existing rules and do not need to be formally challenged.
Baseball officials paved the way for Thursday's vote by negotiating late deals with the Major League Baseball Players Association and with the Major League Umpires Association. Sources said an agreement with the players' union wasn't finalized until Wednesday night.
"The Players look forward to the expanded use of replay this season, and they will monitor closely its effects on the game before negotiating over its use in future seasons," MLBPA executive director Tony Clark said in a statement.
Meanwhile, MLB alleviated a key concern of the umpires by agreeing to hire two additional umpiring crews (a total of eight new umpires), and staffing the replay center in New York through a rotation of current umpire crews instead of with former umpires and umpiring supervisors.
"For some, the discussions regarding expanded replay appeared to move too slowly, too deliberately. But there were technical and operational challenges that needed to be addressed, and that took time," World Umpires Association representative Brian Lam said in a statement.
Expanded MLB replay
In addition to home runs, expanded replay was unanimously approved by MLB owners for the following plays:
• Ground-rule double
• Fan interference
• Stadium boundary calls
• Force play*
• Tag play
• Fair/foul in outfield only
• Trap play in outfield only
• Batter hit by pitch
• Timing play
• Touching a base (requires appeal)
• Passing runners
• Record keeping
*Except fielder's touching of second on double play
"With so many competing interests and opinions, it is unlikely that all will be completely pleased at the end of the day, but that's often the nature of things. While there's still much work left to be done, the newly expanded major league umpiring staff is committed to getting replay ready for the 2014 season."
New rules governing home-plate collisions were not approved by owners, for now, however, because baseball still hasn't agreed with the players' union on the wording of them. However, MLB's COO, Rob Manfred, said enough progress has been made that "we fully expect to make an agreement with the union on home-plate collisions."
The committee that spearheaded the formulation of the new replay system -- consisting of Braves president John Schuerholz, MLB executive vice president Joe Torre and La Russa -- conceded that even with vastly expanded replay, the sport still won't get every call correct.
However, La Russa said the goal was to eliminate what he called "the dramatic miss" -- a pivotal call that, in the past, has changed game outcomes and became such a topic of postgame conversation that "you forgot about the game that went before it."
"We're really [targeting] the dramatic miss," La Russa said, "not all misses."
Another wrinkle of the new rules will allow clubs to show replays of controversial plays in the stadium for the first time. Teams would be able to air up to two replays at regular speed. Then, once the review is completed, fans in the park will be shown an additional replay that demonstrates why the call was overturned, or upheld.
"I am very pleased that instant replay will expand to include additional impactful plays," Selig said in a statement. "The new system will give managers valuable recourse in potentially game-changing situations. The opportunity for our fans to see more replays in our ballparks is also an important modification that the clubs and I favored."
Other aspects of the new system include:
• A limit of two manager challenges per team per game. A manager would begin a game with one challenge per game. If he correctly challenges a play, he retains the right to challenge no more than one additional play at any point during the game. If he incorrectly challenges a play in the first six innings, umpires would not have the authority to review a call involving his team until the beginning of the seventh inning.
• The only exception to the challenge system would involve home runs. Umpires can decide to review home-run calls, Manfred said, much the way they have in the past. However, those calls would now be reviewed by the replay umpires in New York instead of in the stadium where the calls occurred.
• Besides calls on the bases, managers can also challenge ground-rule doubles, fan interference, fair/foul calls and trap/catch calls in the outfield only, hit-by-pitch calls (or non-calls), appeals plays involving whether baserunners touched or missed a base, situations in which one runner may have passed another runner on the bases, ball-strike counts and other "record-keeping" issues, and boundary plays such as a fielder falling into the stands to make a catch.
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• Teams will be allowed to station a "video specialist" in the clubhouse to look for potential challenges, and would be able to communicate with the dugout via a hotline-type phone. But no monitors or video equipment would be allowed in the dugout itself.
• Baseball will require home and visiting teams to have access to the same video feeds.
• Baseball will also standardize technology in all 30 parks to assure that the same 12 camera angles would be available to replay officials in every park.
• There won't be a set time limit for managers to challenge a call, but challenges have to be made, Torre said, before both the pitcher and hitter "are ready to go" for the next pitch. If umpires believe one team is stalling while it determines whether to challenge a call, there would "probably be a discipline attached to that." It wasn't specified what that discipline would be.
• Replay officials in New York would work six-hour shifts, and would only overturn calls on the field "if there is clear and convincing evidence" to do so, the new rules stipulate. The replay official, and not the umpires working a game, would determine where to place runners following an overturned call.
• Two umpiring crews would serve as replay officials on any given night. So a total of eight umpires could monitor up to 15 games -- with one umpire generally asked to cover two games at a time on most nights.
• Those crews would be assigned to the replay center for a full week, then would return to working games on the field, and two more crews would work the replay center the following week.
• Schuerholz said baseball expects to be able to begin feeding replays of potentially reviewable calls within 10 to 15 seconds of the completion of the play. And baseball expects most reviews to be completed in "about a minute," he said, with occasional reviews taking up to a minute and a half.
• Managers would be permitted to leave the dugout to argue a call. But La Russa said that if those arguments persist beyond a short period of time, umpires would be instructed to ask managers: "Do you want to challenge?" The manager then would have to make that decision on the spot, without going back to the dugout to communicate with his video specialist.
Schuerholz reiterated that baseball expects to continue tweaking the replay system over a three-year period until it settles on the best possible system.
"After Year 3," he said, "we expect it to be as near to perfection as replay can get."
Finally we have replay!! Umps have an impossible job and this should better the game. Plus replays on the scoreboard.— Max Scherzer (@Max_Scherzer) January 16, 2014
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