Expanded Replay For 2014 - What Do We Think?

Mike Stobe

We asked for it, we got it! All 30 clubs have unanimously approved the new MLB replay rules, and no call will ever be blown again! Wait. What?

It's not perfect, of course. It doesn't solve baseball, and umpires with real, human eyes. But you know what it does do? It prevents me hopping around my living room screaming that the call was missed and OMGWHY can't they just take a look on the screen and call it correctly! Because after watching basketball and football a lot these last few years, I can honestly tell you that I'd rather have the call correct, whatever team that may impact; even if it's not mine. A bang-bang play is understandable, whatever the outcome, but I am outraged by a blatant missed call, even when it is in my team's favor. But especially when it's not. Of course, this assumes that umpires will be able to use the technology correctly (see: Rosales, Adam, homerun, foul pole for one), but hopefully, it will remove the helpless feeling you get when you know your team was screwed and there's absolutely nothing anyone can do about it. It's a start, anyway.

Here is the press release from MLB in its entirety. Here are the types of plays that replay will impact (approximately 90% of all plays):

PLAY TYPES

The following play types will be subject to review:

Home run
Ground rule double
Fan interference

Stadium boundary calls (e.g., fielder into stands, ball into stands triggering dead ball)
Force play (except the fielder's touching of second base on a double play)
Tag play (including steals and pickoffs)
Fair/foul in outfield only
Trap play in outfield only
Batter hit by pitch
Timing play (whether a runner scores before a third out)

Touching a base (requires appeal)
Passing runners
Record keeping (Ball-strike count to a batter, outs, score, and substitutions)

All other plays will not be reviewable; however, the Umpires may still convene on the field at any time to discuss the play.

So how is this initiated?

INITIATION OF INSTANT REPLAY

Field managers may initiate replay review on one reviewable play per game by verbally indicating his intention to challenge, in a timely manner, to the Crew Chief. Guidelines will be established to determine whether a challenge is timely.
The manager may request that the umpire review multiple portions of the same play, but he must specify exactly which portions of the play he is challenging.
If any portion of a challenged play is overturned, the manager who challenged the play will retain the ability to challenge one more play during the game. No manager may challenge more than two plays in a game.
Once the manager has exhausted his ability to challenge plays during the game and after the beginning of the seventh inning, the Crew Chief may choose to invoke instant replay on any reviewable call. In that circumstance, the Crew Chief is not obligated to invoke instant replay if requested by the manager.
Home run calls that are currently subject to instant replay review will continue to be reviewed at the Crew Chief's discretion. Managers may request that an Umpire review a home run call, but managers cannot challenge home run calls.

We then move to the actual review process:

REVIEW PROCESS

Once instant replay review is invoked (either by the Manager or the Crew Chief), the Crew Chief will signal to the official scorer that the play is under review.
The Crew Chief and at least one other umpire will then move to a designated communication location near home plate, where they will have access to a hard-wired headset connected to the Replay Command Center in New York.
Major League Umpires will be staffed as Replay Officials at the Replay Command Center, located at MLB Advanced Media headquarters, for all Major League games.
The Replay Command Center will have direct access to video from most cameras in the ballpark in real-time, regardless of whether they are shown on the live broadcast.
The Replay Official will look at the video feeds and determine if there is clear and convincing evidence to overturn the call on the field. If the Replay Official overturns a call on the field, he will also use his judgment to determine where to appropriately place runners if the play had been called correctly on the field.
The umpires on the field will not have a monitor to review the play and they will not leave the field at any time.
The Replay Official will make the ultimate determination of whether to overturn the call.
On-Field personnel may not argue with the decision of the Replay Official.

Also:

CLUB ACCESS TO VIDEO

To determine whether to challenge a play, personnel in the dugout will be permitted to communicate with a video specialist in the Clubhouse who has access to the same video that is available to Replay Officials. This communication will occur via the dugout phone.
Both the home and visiting Clubs will have standardized technology to ensure each Club has equal access to all video.
No monitors or additional electronic equipment will be permitted in the dugout.

SCOREBOARD REPLAYS

Clubs will now have the right to show replays of all close plays on its ballpark scoreboard, regardless of whether the play is reviewed.

Did you see it? At the very bottom, almost as an afterthought, we read, "Clubs will now have the right to show replays of all close plays on its ballpark scoreboard, regardless of whether the play is reviewed." Oh boy, will that add some accountability to the umpires on the field with the entire stadium making the call right along with them.

Here's quote from Selig:

"Our fans will love it," Selig predicted. "You know, the thought that, in the past, I could be sitting at home watching a game and get all the replays. And [somebody else] could be sitting at the ballpark and couldn't see any of these replays. That's just wrong."

Well, it's not quite there same there, Bud. I have to imagine the rule was in place for the umpires who didn't want to be shown up on the big screen, and maybe for safety reasons, as well, since the fans sitting at the ballpark are physically there with the umpire, and fans at home are not. But yes, it will be very dramatic when a clear blown call is shown on the big screen.

So to sum up, each manager will have one challenge in the game. If he uses it and "wins", he receives a second, but only one more. After the beginning of the seventh inning (or after the challenges have been exhausted), the Crew Chief is then designated to invoke replay on any of the allowable plays. The phrase, "Crew Chief's discretion" scares me just a tiny bit, but I have to believe that the umpires want to get the call correct as much we want them to. Updated: I'm glad to see the "neighborhood play" at second base is still in play; no one actually wants the second baseman to have to touch the bag.

Just for fun, here's an article about the blown calls in baseball history that replay wouldn't have fixed. Also, Adam Rosales is still waving at us.

So what do you think? Good? Bad? Indifferent? Personally, I love any step in this direction. I love that a call can be challenged. I love that, even caught up in a moment when it was called, a call still has to pass a replay test. And I'm very curious about how it will be used this upcoming season.

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