Sources: Replay in '13 unlikely
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- It's been only a month and a half since commissioner Bud Selig told the Los Angeles Times that baseball will expand its use of replay "for sure" by next season. But the sport has made so little headway since, it's not so "for sure" anymore.
Two sources familiar with the replay discussions told ESPN Monday that it's now highly unlikely that baseball will be ready to increase its use of replay by Opening Day, because it still hasn't settled on which technology it wants to use or how to employ it.
"I wouldn't say there's no chance," one source said. "But given where we are, I'd say there's almost no chance."
Selig has said repeatedly over the last six months that baseball plans to expand replay to cover fair/foul balls and trap/catch calls in time for the 2013 season. And a provision to do so was actually agreed upon a year ago by owners and players in their negotiations for the new Basic Agreement.
However, with less than four months now left until Opening Day, the powers that be who would have to implement the new system remain divided over whether to use traditional replay, or new, experimental technologies which were tested in the two New York stadiums late in the season.
Sources said that baseball officials weren't happy with the results when they tried out tennis' Hawk-Eye animation system or golf's TrackMan radar technology, and are skeptical that either system would be a good fit for baseball. However, neither option has been ruled out officially.
So that leaves traditional replay technology, which is currently being used to review disputed home run calls. But in order for traditional replay to be expanded effectively for use on other types of calls, MLB probably would have to standardize the number of cameras, and even dictate specific camera angles, at all 30 ballparks.
In that case, however, some people within the sport would also push for a sport-wide upgrade to state-of-the-art video cameras and equipment, which is now being used in some markets but not others. And that would incur a significant cost.
The advantage of using traditional replay is that, if it worked smoothly on fair/foul and trap/catch calls, it could then be expanded again to include some calls on the bases and at home plate. And Joe Torre, MLB's executive vice president for baseball operations, acknowledged recently that more and more executives in the sport now want to see those calls reviewed, too.
The disadvantage, however, is that baseball officials believe the best and quickest way to review additional calls would involve stationing "replay umpires" either in every ballpark or in some central location. Those officials then would review the video and, theoretically, quickly signal umpires on the field whether the call should stand.
The addition of those replay umpires would have to be negotiated with the umpires' union, however. And that, too, would involve a major expenditure of dollars.
So while baseball continues to push toward more replay, it appears to be running out of time to implement it in time for the 2013 regular season.
"If we don't," Torre told a media gathering at last month's general managers' meetings, "it's not for a lack of effort. Let's put it that way. I don't want to nail myself down in that regard. The last thing I want to do is recommend (any of) this as a knee-jerk reaction."
At last week's meeting of the executive board of the players' union, union chief Michael Weiner told reporters that players are heavily in favor of expanding replay.
"We reached an agreement of sorts in collective bargaining on expansion of replay that was contingent on discussions between Major League Baseball and the umpires' union, and contingent on technological changes," Weiner said. "Both of those pieces have yet to be put in place.
"But we know where the players are, and the players would very much be in favor of expanded replay. We have to get the right technology, and the umpires have collective bargaining rights in this area that have to be honored. Whether it happens for 2013, I don't know. But we very much would like to see expanded replay as soon as those other pieces can get put together."
Unfortunately for all its proponents, however, putting those pieces together has turned out to take much longer than even the commissioner of baseball ever envisioned.
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