MLB using WBC to study replay
Several Major League Baseball officials will travel to World Baseball Classic games in Miami this month to explore potential options for an extensive expansion of instant replay, baseball people familiar with the trip told ESPN.com.
Joe Torre, an MLB executive vice president, confirmed Tuesday that league officials plan to make the visits to WBC games and various spring training sites to examine camera angles and other factors that will help them develop a plan.
MLB has all but abandoned plans to limit reviews to only fair/foul and trap/catch calls, as ESPN.com reported several weeks ago. Those calls are part of baseball's new collective bargaining agreement. Instead, as the Miami trip indicates, the sport is now considering scenarios for reviewing a much wider spectrum of calls, including calls at home plate and calls on the bases. MLB is still in the early stages of exploring which calls to review and the format under which to review them. And commissioner Bud Selig conceded recently that the sport has run out of time to implement any changes before Opening Day.
However, a vast expansion of replay is now widely viewed within baseball circles as being likely for next season. And some officials haven't given up hope on implementing some changes as early as midseason this year, though that is viewed as a long shot.
What baseball still needs to determine is:
• Whether to use a manager-challenge system similar to that in the NFL, or empower a designated replay umpire to decide which calls to review.
• Whether a replay umpire would be stationed in each park, or whether an umpiring crew would review calls in all games from a central location, almost certainly in New York (which is similar to the NHL, which reviews goal-line calls at a hub in Toronto).
• Which calls would be reviewed, and which wouldn't. While it's obvious that balls and strikes wouldn't be reviewable, it still hasn't been determined where baseball would draw the line on what else wouldn't be feasible to review. Officials now believe they need a system that enables them to look at many calls on the bases and at home plate, but it hasn't been determined whether certain calls would be excluded.
The Miami trip will be baseball's first opportunity to begin answering these questions. However, officials plan to do similar studies during the season so that, before MLB settles on answers to these questions, it has real data that will paint a truer picture of the potential options and how much time, if any, such options are likely to add to the average game.
Eventually, whatever plan they favor has to be negotiated with two unions -- the players' union and the umpires' union. Since the current Basic Agreement only permits the use of replay on fair/foul and trap/catch calls, any expansion beyond that means both unions have to sign off on any changes.
However, ESPN.com was told this winter that members of both unions favor expanded replay, if it's a system that works for everyone. Baseball's challenge now is to determine exactly what that system might be.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.