Expanded replay a necessary adjustment for baseball
Technology required to ensure crucial calls are made correctly
ORLANDO, Fla. -- Expanded video replay is coming to a ballpark near you, probably by next spring.
While departed baseball purists are turning over in their graves at the thought of such an innovation, it's good for the game, for the fans, not to mention managers and umpires.
Commissioner Bud Selig calls himself the ultimate baseball purist. I'm not far behind.
But when you think of the technology available today and how it is so important crucial plays are called correctly, even devout purists agree video replay is necessary.
"Three or four years ago, I wasn't the least bit interested in expanded replay," Selig said recently. "Well, my father told me many years ago that life is nothing but a series of adjustments.
"And this is an adjustment that I've made."
Major League Baseball's general managers and owners are meeting this week at the JW Marriott Orlando Grande Lakes resort, no more than a long-iron shot from Disney World.
Throughout the week, the buzz has been the adoption of expanded replay.
"It's so important to the game, we have to get it right," Seattle Mariners president Chuck Armstrong said Tuesday morning. "The kinks have to be worked out."
And that is one of the issues.
Joe Torre, MLB baseball operations executive vice president, said Tuesday owners could possibly approve the format during their joint meeting Thursday morning, which would include funding for the program.
"We're about as far along with the knowledge we have as we can go," Torre said. "There are still certain things we have to decide on -- the triggering mechanisms, things like that. Stuff that really doesn't affect what we're going to do; just how we're going to do it.
"We have the technology and feel we can [review plays] quickly. We tested last week in the Arizona Fall League, and the results were very promising. We averaged a minute, 40 seconds for six of the seven replays."
Fans are inundated with replays shown over and over again on their team's telecasts. When umpires make crucial calls and moments later the replay shows they were wrong, fans shout about why baseball doesn't use the technology at hand.
Now, it will.
Selig has done a marvelous job of innovations that have improved baseball -- Interleague Play, two Wild Card teams in each league, realignment -- even the existing TV replay for homer calls.
The Commissioner is a master at not pulling the trigger on any decision until the facts are all in and he's convinced it's the correct move.
The 2014 season is the target date to completely implement the expanded format.
"This is something new. When we go forward with this, it's going to be with what we have, what we think and how we think it is going to be best implemented," said Torre. "If the season of 2014 tells us we need to fine tune it, we'll do that."
If, for whatever reason, final approval doesn't take place Thursday, it will happen during January's Owners Meetings in Scottsdale, Ariz.
"They have to give us the right to go forward," added Torre.
In addition, the World Umpires Association and the Major League Baseball Players Association also must approve the format. Negotiations are underway; one session was held during the recent World Series.
Said Torre: "We expect to all be on the same page by the time we need to have it -- by the first of the year or in January at some point."
"Both parties are working diligently to iron out every possible scenario that could occur with a replay," WUA president Joe West told The Associated Press.
During the tryout at the Arizona Fall League, the overall results were good, but some questions arose.
"There were things that happened that need to be worked out," West said.
Under the plan for expanded replay, managers will be allowed one challenge over the first six innings and two from the seventh inning until completion of the game. Calls that are challenged will be reviewed by a crew at MLB Advanced Media in New York who will make the final ruling.
The manager can file a challenge with the crew chief or home-plate umpire on any call he feels is incorrect. Once the challenge is made and the play is reviewed, the manager can no longer argue.
As Torre said, just how a manager triggers a challenge must be decided.
Non-reviewable plays can still be argued by managers, who can request that the umpires discuss it to see if another member of the crew saw the play differently.
Balls and strikes, check swings and several other aspects of the game will not be involved.
"We do not want to lose sight of umpiring on the field," said Torre. "We have to make sure that umpiring on the field doesn't get punished by this. We may have replay, but that doesn't mean we're going to sacrifice the quality on the field."
I believe in some respects the new system will put added pressure on managers. Consider this: There's a close play in a game that goes against his team and the manager decides not to challenge.
Replays shown on the game telecast prove the umpire did, in fact, blow the call. The manager should have challenged, his team loses the game and it was a poor decision.
To challenge or not challenge.
Incidentally, unlike the NFL, managers will not be permitted to communicate with anyone in the ballpark who has access to the regular telecast before executing a challenge.
On Sept. 3, 2008, I was at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg when the Yankees' Alex Rodriguez hit a ninth-inning fly ball high over the left-field foul pole. It ricocheted off a catwalk above the field. It was called a home run.
Rays manager Joe Maddon asked crew chief Charlie Reliford to review the call. Two minutes, 15 seconds later after video replay was studied, the home run stood.
That is when replay, which only recently had been adopted, was used and became a part of Major League Baseball for the first time.
Now, that is going to be greatly expanded and it ultimately will make baseball better.
Even for devout purists.
Hal Bodley is the senior correspondent for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.