All 30 Major League Baseball clubs approved a proposal for expanded use of instant replay, paving the way for implementation of new review procedures for the 2014 season.
The Major League Baseball Players Association and the World Umpires Association also approved the new plan, which expands the plays subject to review and allows managers to challenge rulings on the field. The owners had unanimously approved funding for expanded replay at their quarterly owners’ meetings in November.
“The players look forward to the expanded use of replay this season, and they will monitor closely its effects on the game before negotiating over its use in future seasons,” players association executive director Tony Clark said in a statement Thursday, the final day of the current owners’ meetings.
The approval will lead to a drastic increase in the scope of instant replay, which previously only covered boundary calls concerning home runs. MLB first began using instant replay in 2008 to determine whether a home run actually cleared the fence, was fair or foul or was interfered with by a fan.
A committee consisting of Atlanta Braves president John Schuerholz, former manager and current executive vice president of baseball operations Joe Torre and former manager Tony La Russa has studied the issue for months.
“I am very pleased that instant replay will expand to include additional impactful plays,” MLB commissioner Bud Selig said in a statement. “The new system will give managers valuable recourse in potentially game-changing situations.”
In addition to home runs, replay will cover ground-rule doubles, fan interference, fair/foul calls and trap plays. Plays involving base running, such as whether a runner passed his teammate on the bases, touched a base or scored before the third out, are reviewable, as is whether or not a pitch hit a batter.
“The bottom line, it’s going to make our game better,” Baltimore Orioles manager Buck Showalter said regarding expanded replay at the winter meetings in December. “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?”
Replay will cover forces and tags, but not the “neighborhood play,” which occurs when the umpire grants the out to the middle infielder turning a double play even if his foot is not touching the bag when he receives the ball. Balls and strikes are also not subject to replay review.
Managers have at least one challenge per game. If their first challenge results in the reversal of any portion of the play, they gain one additional challenge; if not, they can’t challenge again. Once the seventh inning begins, the umpire crew chief can initiate replay on his own.
When deciding whether to challenge a play, the coaching staff in the dugout will be able to communicate, via the dugout phone, with a video specialist in the clubhouse who has access to the camera feeds.
“I think replay has probably become a natural progression as far as we have the technology to do it,” Chicago White Sox manager Robin Ventura said at the winter meetings. “In the end, we want to get it right. And I think everybody is on board with that.”
Once the replay process begins, the crew chief and another umpire will inform the replay command center, located at MLB Advanced Media headquarters in New York City. There, MLB umpires serving as replay officials will view video from camera feeds in the ballpark and rule on the play, as well as positioning base runners, if necessary.
In addition, teams can now show replays of all close plays on their stadium scoreboards, even if the play was reviewed.
“The opportunity for our fans to see more replays in our ballparks is also an important modification that the clubs and I favored,” Selig said.
Bill Brink: email@example.com and on Twitter @BrinkPG.