Since August 2008 there has been limited instant replay in Major League Baseball. Since then, the idea of expanding the range of plays that instant replay covers has been part of the conversation. After a 2013 season of poor umpiring and missed calls, it was announced Thursday by MLB Commissioner Bud Selig that the use of expanded replay had been approved for the 2014 season by the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA), the World Umpires Association and all 30 MLB teams.
How does this new system actually work? What are the changes? How many challenges does a manager get? What types of plays are allowed to be reviewed? Who reviews them? And who makes the final decision?
Expanded Replay will cover 90 percent of all plays in the game, officially 13 different types. Here, as posted on MLB.com by Paul Hagan, is a quick description of each of the thirteen plays that may be challenged by the club’s manager:
Any calls involving home runs, ground-rule doubles, fan interference, boundary calls, plays at first base, force plays, tag plays, fair-foul and trap plays in the outfield, hit by pitch, timing plays, touching the base, passing runners and any dispute involving ball-strike counts, outs, score or substitutions. All other plays, including interference and obstruction, will not be reviewable.
Each club’s manager is given one challenge at the beginning of each game to use at their own discretion up until the seventh inning. After the seventh the umpires take over on the decision making of what plays should and should not be challenged. Plays must be challenged by the manager in a “timely manner.” What constitutes a “timely manner” has not yet been specifically defined. If a challenge goes in the manager’s favor then he is allowed to keep the challenge to use once more by the end of the sixth inning. So in essence the manager gets one challenge, two if he is either correct or lucky.
The on-field umpires will not be the ones making the final decision to change a call. Two umpiring crews will be responsible for making the final decision at the Major League Baseball Advanced Media (MLBAM) headquarters in New York. They will work in shifts, watching up to 15 games at a time. The replay officials in NY can only overturn calls “if there is clear and convincing evidence to do so.” Any decision they make will be final.
Other facets of the new expanded replay rule include the following:
- Both teams will be allowed a video specialist in the clubhouse to assist in determining whether or not to challenge a call.
- Baseball will also standardize technology in all 30 parks to make sure that all 12 camera angles are they same and will always be available to the umpire crews in NY.
- Managers will still be allowed to leave the dugout to argue a call but only for a short time period after which the umpire will be required to ask the manager, “do you want to challenge?”
- Two umpiring crews will be assigned to the command center for a period of one week after that time they will return to calling games on the field. Another crew will then be assigned to the command center and the teams will continue to rotate.
- Most calls under the new system should be able to be reviewed in no longer than a minute and a half.
- The fans will be able to view the replay on the stadiums big screen.
According to Atlanta Braves President, John Schuerholz who was part of the committee that included Hall of Fame Manager Tony LaRussa, HOF manager Joe Torre and Commissioner Bud Selig, the system should be perfected within three years. The system was tested during the Arizona Fall League in October and November of last year with excellent results. Said Selig,
“This is really big. I’m proud of the changes we’ve made, and I’ll tell you why I’m proud of them. Because they won’t disturb the game as we know it. Yes, there will be some differences. But because of MLBAM, because of our own technology, because of everything else, we’ve been able to do this.”