PARADISE VALLEY, Ariz. -- The way baseball games are governed on the field changed dramatically Thursday when expanded instant replay was unanimously approved at the quarterly Owners Meetings and the Major League Baseball Players Association and World Umpires Association also signed off.
"This is really big," Commissioner Bud Selig said at The Sanctuary Resort after making the announcement. "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 [MLB Advanced Media], because of our own technology, because of everything else, we've been able to do this."
Asked where this ranks in terms of accomplishments during his tenure, Selig responded: "It ranks very, very high."
Until now, video review was only allowed for boundary calls involving home runs, and it happened at the discretion of the umpires, who would leave the field to look at replays and then return to make their decision known.
Beginning this season, each manager will start a game with one challenge. If it is upheld, he retains his challenge but can never have more than two in a game. If the manager exhausts his challenges before the start of the seventh inning, he is out of luck, adding a new element of strategy to the game. Beginning in the top of the seventh, the crew chief is empowered to institute a review.
Hall of Fame manager Tony La Russa, who served on the committee along with Hall of Fame manager Joe Torre and Braves president John Schuerholz, said it's like any other decision a manager has to make during the course of a game.
"We told our managers at the Winter Meetings [in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., in December], 'You have tough decisions in the game. That's what they pay you for. If those bother you, you're doing the wrong job,'" La Russa said.
"Do you use your closer in the eighth inning? The best one is the pinch-hitter. Suppose I'm the Braves and Chipper Jones isn't playing that day. He's just sitting there. You've got this weapon. Do you hit him in the sixth? The seventh? What [if] you get to the ninth and the situation isn't there and you get to the clubhouse and you didn't use him? You're just taking your best guess. And that's what this is. It's a challenge for a game-changing play that goes against you."
The on-site officials will not make the call, however. All reviews will be conducted at the Replay Command Center at MLBAM headquarters in New York. Two additional four-man umpiring crews will be hired and umpires will be rotated through New York to review video feeds. Every ballpark will have a designated communication location near home plate. There, the crew chief and at least one other Major League umpire will have access to a hard-wired headset connected to the Replay Command Center. The decision of the replay official in New York will be final.
Another big change is that teams will be allowed to show replays, including those of disputed plays, on their in-park video boards.
"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."
The decision to limit the number of challenges was based partly on pace-of-game concerns and partly on the conviction that one should be more than sufficient.
"That's far more than enough based on the statistics we have on the number of impactful plays that are missed in a game," Schuerholz said.
Added Torre: "We all felt that the fact that we're limiting challenges is really based on the rhythm of the game. I'm not sure what price you want to pay for what the replay is going to be. We're going to start this way, and if something has to be adjusted, we'll certainly be aware of that. Like anything else, if we think something can make it better, we're certainly going to go in that direction."
Approximately 90 percent of all plays will be subject to review, including 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.
To initiate a review, the manager will verbally inform the umpire of his intention in a timely manner. The challenge may involve multiple portions of the same play, but each must be specified during the appeal.
Challenges must be made in a "timely manner" with discipline possible if the manager appears to be stalling.
Teams will be allowed to have a club employee monitoring video and communicating with the manager whether or not to challenge. Both the home and road teams must have equal access to all video, but no additional electronic equipment will be allowed. Camera angles in all parks will also be standardized.
Schuerholz has stressed from the beginning that this remains a work in progress that is likely to be further fine-tuned in the future.
"This is historic and, as you can tell, quite complex," Schuerholz said. "Every time we peeled back one layer of the onion, we found more complexities. That's why it has changed so from the last time we talked about it to where we have finally settled,
"This is a start. This is a great, giant step. It is in three phases. We'll check on how well we did after Year 1, again after Year 2. And after Year 3, we expect to be as near to perfection as we humans can get."
MLBPA executive director Tony Clark issued a statement pointing out that the players will also be watching carefully to see how the new system works.
"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," he said.
Paul Hagen is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less