(AP) MLB approves expanded replay starting this season
By BOB BAUM
AP Sports Writer
PARADISE VALLEY, Ariz.
Ever since the game was invented, before television or even radio existed, baseball counted on the eyes and ears of umpires on the field. Starting this season, many key decisions will be made in a studio far away.
Major League Baseball vaulted into the 21st century of technology on Thursday, approving a huge expansion of instant replay in hopes of eliminating blown calls that riled up players, managers and fans.
Acknowledging the human element had been overtaken in an era when everyone except the umps could see several views over and over in slow-motion, owners and players and umpires OKed the new system.
Now each manager will be allowed to challenge at least one call per game. If he’s right, he gets another challenge. After the seventh inning, a crew chief can request a review on his own if the manager has used his challenges.
Baseball was the last major pro sport in North America to institute replay when it began late in the 2008 season. Even then, it was only used for close calls on home runs.
The NFL, NBA, NHL, some NCAA sports and major tennis tournaments all use a form of replay, and even FIFA and the English Premier League have adopted goal-line technology for soccer.
Not that managers won’t still occasionally bolt from the dugout, their veins bulging.
The so-called “neighborhood play” at second base on double plays cannot be challenged. Many had safety concerns for middle infielders being wiped out by hard-charging runners if the phantom force was subject to review.
Ball-and-strike calls can’t be contested. Neither can check-swings and foul tips. Nor can obstruction and interference rulings _ those are up to the umpires’ judgment, like the one at third base in Game 3 of the World Series last October that sent St. Louis over Boston.
All reviews will be done by current MLB umpires at a replay center in MLB.com’s New York office. To create a large enough staff, MLB agreed to hire six new big league umpires and call up two minor league umps for the entire season. A seventh major league umpire will be added to replace the late Wally Bell.
The umpires on the field will be able to talk to the command center. The replay umpire will make the final decision _ that could include where to place runners if, say, a call is reversed from out to safe on a trapped ball in outfield.
In addition, managers and others in the dugout will be allowed to communicate by phone with someone in the clubhouse who can watch the videos and advise whether to challenge a call.
Joe Torre, MLB’s executive vice president of baseball operations, said work continues on a proposed rule that would ban home-plate collisions between runners and the catcher. The rule has not been written and talks on its content are ongoing between MLB representatives and the players union, he said.
Ever since William McLean became the first professional umpire when he worked a Boston-Philadelphia National League game on April 22, 1876, baseball has celebrated its old-fashioned traditions. Having umpires make the calls on the field was one of them.
So were arguments between managers and umpires, often to the delight of fans. Worries that replays would slow the pace even more were offset by this: Replay decisions cannot be argued.
Replay umpires will make their final rulings in no more than a minute to 90 seconds, Torre estimated.
To make reviews uniform, cameras will transit 12 angles from each ballpark. MLB Chief Operating Officer Rob Manfred said it was uncertain whether the replay system will be in place in Australia for the season-opening series between the Arizona Diamondbacks and Los Angeles Dodgers.
MLB had talked for a few years about expanding replay to include fair-or-foul calls and traps. Several missed calls in the postseason ratcheted up the debate.
The players’ union gave its approval for the 2014 season.
Selig said the replay expansion ranks “very, very high” when compared with other moves made during his time on the job.
The new rule allows ballparks to show fans the same replays on stadium video screens. But only plays under review can be shown on the screen in slow motion.
The existing rule on umpires calling for a review of whether a hit was a home run or not will remain, although the review will be done by the umpire in New York.
Torre said the number of manager challenges were limited to a maximum of two to maintain “the rhythm of the game.”
Torre and MLB executive Tony La Russa, both ex-managers, joined Schuerholz on the replay committee.
AP Sports Writers Ronald Blum, Janie McCauley and Ben Walker contributed to this report.