MLB plans to expand instant replay in 2014
Owners will formally vote on issue at next meeting in November
COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. -- Major League Baseball took a giant step toward expanded instant replay on Thursday, the final day of the quarterly Owners Meetings.
The joint session was briefed on a proposal that would dramatically increase the number of plays that can be reviewed, currently limited to boundary calls involving home runs. The committee of Braves president John Schuerholz and former big league managers Joe Torre and Tony La Russa that had been studying the issue presented its findings.
- Oct. 26, 1985: Umpire Don Denkinger misses a crucial call at first base in Game 6 of the 1985 World Series between the Royals and Cardinals, helping the Royals to rally and go on to win Game 7. Video
- Oct. 9, 1996: Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter hits a fly ball to right field, and 11-year-old Jeffrey Maier reaches into the field of play and deflects it into the stands for what is ruled a home run. Video
- Oct. 1, 2007: In a National League Wild Card tiebreaker game between the Padres and Rockies, Colorado's Matt Holliday scores the game-winning run in the 13th inning even though TV replays show him never touching home plate. Video
- June 2, 2010: Detroit's Armando Galarraga loses perfect game when Jason Donald, who would have been the final out, is ruled safe at first base. Video
- July 26, 2011: The Braves' Julio Lugo scores the game-winning run in the 19th inning against the Pirates, even though catcher Michael McKenry appears to make the tag before he touches the plate. Video
"I couldn't help but sense in the room the acceptance and excitement," Commissioner Bud Selig said. "People understood they were sitting in on something that was historic."
The owners will formally vote on the issue at their next meetings in Orlando, Fla., in November. And the changes must also be negotiated with both the Major League Baseball Players Association and the World Umpires Association, although the use of review for fair-foul and trap plays was incorporated into the most recent Basic Agreement.
"[This is a chance] for baseball to dramatically reduce the number of incorrect calls that are made in any game that impacts the outcome of that game and hence the outcome of division races," Schuerholz said. "We believe that not only is it historic, but it will be impactful and very meaningful and useful."
Highlights of the new system:
• A review will be initiated when a manager informs the umpire that he wants to challenge a play. He will be allowed one challenge in the first six innings and two more from the seventh through the end of the game.
"This is a historic moment for baseball," Schuerholz said. "We have moved forward with a plan that would give our managers an opportunity to help control the calls that are made that impact their team, give them a better opportunity to see to it that they have an opportunity to win the game. It's the first time in the history of baseball that managers have been empowered with this capability."
• If the manager wins his appeal, he retains the challenge. The challenge from the first six innings does not carry over.
• Not all plays are reviewable.
• If a manager disagrees with a reviewable call, his only recourse would be to use a challenge. Managers would not be able to argue a reviewable call in a bid to get it overturned without the use of replay. A manager could still argue in situations not open to review, such as when defending a player or questioning an improper substitution.
"Reviewable plays will cover 89 percent of those incorrect calls that were made in the past," Schuerholz explained. "The 11 percent remaining are in the non-reviewable [category], which can still be argued by the manager. And the manager can still request that the umpires get together and discuss it to see if anybody else on the crew saw it differently. But it's not reviewable."
Schuerholz used a disputed hit-by-pitch call as a play that would not be reviewable, noting that if runners were moving on the pitch, it would be extremely difficult for the umpires to decide which bases they should be entitled to.
"Most of those plays, when you see them, are plays that if they are turned over, the reset of the runners and the play would be mind-boggling," Schuerholz said. "It would be a nightmare. So that's the way we've chosen to start."
The list of exactly which plays fall into each category hasn't been finalized, pending further talks with the unions.
• All replays will be reviewed by umpires at MLB Advanced Media's state-of-the-art facilities in New York, with technicians available to provide the necessary video.
"Once [the challenge is issued], the home-plate umpire or the crew chief will go to a communications center somewhere on the field … and pick up a phone that will have a direct secure line to Major League Baseball [Advanced Media], and there will be umpires who have been monitoring the games with technicians who can cue up [replays] for them," Schuerholz said.
"Now our replays take three minutes and four seconds on average. And we expect now that [future] replays will take a minute [and] 15 [seconds]."
• However, boundary calls on home runs have been grandfathered. The on-site umpires will retain the right to submit the plays for review or not.
• There is no provision to cover the possibility of an obviously blown call late in the game if the manager has used all his challenges.
"We talked about that, and it may develop into that down the road," Schuerholz said. "But we said, 'No.' Late-game situations, a manager is out of challenges, there's a call that appears to be obviously incorrect -- what happens then? I think managers will learn to judiciously use their challenges. The stats we have -- only one missed call per five games is our data right now. So if you have three challenges, you should be able to cover those events you believe are critical to the outcome of your game."
Baseball expects to have the new system in place to start the 2014 season, but Schuerholz admitted this is just the first version.
"It is a phasing plan," he said. "This is but the first phase. At the end of '14, we'll go back and look at what we've done well -- what's worked, what hasn't worked -- and make adjustments, and then we'll improve it in the next phase, the next rollout, the second iteration. And we feel that by no more than a third iteration, we will have diminished to the most minimal level the number of incorrect calls that impact our games.
"It's going to take some time. We're excited about [what is] going to happen in '14, and we expect to use it in the playoffs in '14, perhaps in even an enhanced manner. We'll add to what we've seen that worked during the regular season and make it even more useful during the playoffs."
Torre and La Russa will work with managers beginning at the Winter Meetings in December and into Spring Training. There will also be training sessions with the umpires beginning in the Arizona Fall League and continuing into Spring Training.
"You should also know that the umpires are very, very receptive to this," Schuerholz said. "They have spent enough time being abused or being the butt of bad comments about what's happened or what's been viewed on replays. And with the advanced technology that we have on replays, they understand that it can be a valuable tool for them. And we intend to use it as that."
Concluded Selig: "This has struck me over the last two or three weeks. It's historic. There's no question about it. In the last 25 years, the sport has changed a lot, and I think for the better. This was something we did very carefully."
Paul Hagen is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.