SBD/December 12, 2013/Leagues and Governing Bodies

MLB's Instant Replay, Plate Collision Issues Closer To Solutions At Winter Meetings

Banning plate collisions will require approval of the MLBPA
Neither expanded instant replay nor the elimination of home-plate collisions "is 100 percent ready for next season" in MLB, as team owners "must sign off on both at their January meetings," according to Ken Davidoff of the N.Y. POST. The replay rules "must be collectively bargained with both the players and the umpires," and the MLBPA "must sign off on the collisions rule." If the players vote against banning collisions, the change "could be instituted unilaterally" for the '15 season. Davidoff writes, "You’d bet on both going through, however, because there is widespread agreement they’re good for the game." The current instant replay plan "calls for managers to get one 'challenge' through the first seven innings and then one from the eighth inning onward, with retention of the challenge each time the umpire’s call gets reversed." There will be "tensions, undoubtedly, and criticisms, for sure; MLB is calling the 2014 season 'Phase 1' on the replay front, with three phases planned in all." MLB "should just keep moving forward." The alternative, "not using available technology to improve the game's efficacy, is profoundly unappealing" (N.Y. POST, 12/12).

TO THE VIDEOTAPE: ESPN.com's Jayson Stark noted MLB's new replay system would see all calls "reviewed by replay umpires working out of a central location" in N.Y. The managers and GMs "were told that, if there is a close or controversial play, the replay umpires would begin reviewing replays of the call before a manager challenges it, in order to make the process move as quickly as possible." Managers "would not have to throw handkerchiefs," as they would "simply inform the umpires that they wish to challenge a call after they go out to discuss or argue a play." Umpires would be "encouraged to ask the managers, early in the argument, if they would initiate a challenge." Teams would be "permitted to have a coach or a team employee stationed in the dugout to watch replays, seconds after a call, and advise managers on which calls they could or should challenge." That rule would be "designed both to shorten the process and to increase the chances that when a manager challenges a call, he is more likely to succeed" (ESPN.com, 12/11). SI.com's Tom Verducci noted the replay system also would include an "industry standard for monitors near all dugouts so that teams have equal access to television replays when deciding whether or not to challenge." The allowable number of failed challenges "is still being decided." But the league has decided that "some discretion is needed -- possibly from the umpires -- to allow for an obvious replay challenge if a team is out of challenges" (SI.com, 12/11).

SAFETY PRECAUTIONS AT HOME: ESPN's Karl Ravech noted concussions "may very well be the big part of this deal, money is another one." ESPN's Buster Olney said many GMs believe the "increased knowledge about concussions has been a factor, as well as concern about the sort of lawsuits that have been aimed" at the NFL. Olney: "More and more baseball executives have looked at the home plate collision like a losing math equation in an era when statistical analytics are weighed so heavily. The cost of losing a catcher ... is simply not worth it" ("Baseball Tonight," ESPN2, 12/12).
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