Three years ago, Lloyd McClendon saw firsthand a situation demonstrating the need for expanded instant replay.
McClendon, then the hitting coach for the Detroit Tigers, watched as first-base umpire Jim Joyce called the Cleveland Indians’ Jason Donald safe, despite replays showing he was out, on what should have been the final batter of Armando Galarraga’s perfect game.
The proposed changes to the rules governing instant replay, which are expected to begin for the 2014 season, provide a safety valve for such situations.
“I think it’s probably good for the game,” said McClendon, recently hired as manager of the Seattle Mariners. “The game is so fast, the players are so fast and so strong that things happen so quick. I wish it had been in play a few years ago and maybe we’d have a guy in Detroit with a perfect game.”
Managers and general managers received a presentation Wednesday on the current version of the plan for expanded replay, a nebulous proposal that still requires finalization. Major League Baseball approved funding for expanded replay at November’s owners meetings, but the players’ association and the umpires’ union must approve the plan before MLB can do so at the January owners meetings.
“It certainly wasn’t a meeting where we said, ‘This is the way it’s going to be,’ ” said Joe Torre, MLB executive vice president of baseball operations and a member of the replay committee along with former manager Tony La Russa and Atlanta Braves president John Schuerholz. “It was basically, ‘This is where we are right now,’ and I really don’t want to go into it only because it may not be the same thing we start the season with.”
Currently, umpires can review video only to determine whether or not a hit was a home run. The new proposal will include almost everything else, including fair and foul balls and outs on the bases, but not balls and strikes. Managers will be able to challenge calls on the field, and the current proposal calls for officials at MLB’s offices in New York to review the play.
“The bottom line, it’s going to make our game better,” Baltimore Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “I think it’s going to be a little bit of an entertainment factor for the fans. Can you imagine watching the NFL or a college game without replay now? I think after a year or so, we’re going to say, ‘Why did we wait so long?’ ”
Uncertainty still exists in the plan, including the number of challenges each manager will have and when he will be able to deploy them. MLB also is worried about ensuring managers don’t have time to hear from a team official who has seen a replay before deciding whether to challenge.
“The one thing in this process that [is] our goal is to make everything uniform for all the teams,” Torre said. “So you have a road team and a home team, we are making sure that the home team is not going to have an advantage over the road team.”
MLB commissioner Bud Selig and the replay committee have strived to avoid long pauses in games that often last more than three hours. And some managers discussed the added responsibility of promptly identifying and challenging close plays in addition to everything else they do in the dugout.
“We don’t have conversations with people that are on a monitor looking at plays like they do in football,” Milwaukee Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. “That’s a huge advantage to have somebody else tell you what to do. It’s huge. We’re not going to have that advantage.”
The “neighborhood play” will make the challenge system tricky. Umpires often award the out to a middle infielder turning a double play at second base who has a foot near, but not always on the bag, in the interest of avoiding collisions and injury. A challenge system could call into question that policy in, say, a September game with playoff implications.
“That certainly is one question that was asked,” Torre said.
The expanded replay also will affect the way managers interact with umpires. It is likely that managers won’t be able to challenge a call after leaving the dugout to argue.
“It will probably save me a lot of money,” said McClendon, a former Pirates manager famous for his 2001 tirade in which he took first base after arguing a call. “I don’t think there are any bases in my future.”
Bill Brink: firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @BrinkPG.