SBD/January 17, 2014/Leagues and Governing Bodies

MLB Approves Expanded Instant Replay, But Concerns Rise Over Length Of Games

Managers get one challenge a game, with additional reviews at the umpires' discretion
MLB owners on Thursday unanimously approved a dramatic new instant replay system that promises to change how the game is played. Under the new system, a wide variety of on-field plays will be challengeable by managers, and teams now gain new ability to show close plays on their videoboards, regardless of whether they are reviewed. Managers will be given one challenge per game to use. If they are correct on their challenge, they can use a second challenge. Umpires retain the ability to review plays at their discretion, regardless of the number of challenges a manager still has. MLB Commissioner Bud Selig called the measure one of the high points of his 21-year-plus tenure. MLB will hire two additional crews, numbering eight umpires in total, to man the new Replay Command Center at MLBAM’s N.Y. headquarters (Eric Fisher, Staff Writer). In Pittsburgh, Bill Brink notes 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." Replay will cover "forces and tags, but not the 'neighborhood play'" (PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE, 1/17). On Long Island, Anthony Rieber notes MLB will make sure each stadium "is equipped with enough cameras and technology to achieve a 'standardized' level of coverage." One exception "could be the season-opening two-game series" between the Dodgers and D-Backs that will be played in Sydney, Australia. MLB officials said that they are "unsure if they can equip the Sydney Cricket Grounds in time for the new system" (NEWSDAY, 1/17).

CHALLENGE ACCEPTED: FOXSPORTS.com's Jon Paul Morosi notes teams likely will "contour their clubhouse video systems with chains of communication designed to alert managers right away if a call should be challenged." A dedicated phone line also will "run from the clubhouse -- the video coach/monitor, so to speak -- into the dugout." There is "no subterfuge," as that is now "completely legal." The only caveat is that managers "must notify crew chiefs verbally and in a timely manner to lodge a challenge" (FOXSPORTS.com, 1/17). In N.Y., Tyler Kepner notes when MLB Exec VP/Baseball Operations Joe Torre and former MLB manager Tony La Russa "met with the current managers at the winter meetings last month, they found some managers worried about adding another responsibility." But La Russa said that it "was clear that the managers were best qualified to determine which calls would have the greatest impact on the game." He kept "coming back to that word -- impact -- when discussing why the new replay system would add a compelling strategic wrinkle." La Russa: "You really don’t need a pocketful of challenges. It doesn’t come around all that often" (N.Y. TIMES, 1/17).

HURRY UP AND WAIT? In N.Y., Anthony McCarron writes critics might wonder if additional replay will "slow down games at a time when some believe pace of game is already an issue." Red Sox President & CEO Larry Lucchino, appearing on MLB Network Radio, said that he "doesn’t believe that will be a problem." Lucchino: "What I don’t want to see is a long period of play stoppage. I don’t think that’ll be the case. I know they’ve had that in mind, that concern." Torre "estimated that the replay ump would rule on challenges within 90 seconds." Those rulings "can’t be argued, either." Torre said limiting the amount of challenges should help keep "the rhythm of the game" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 1/17). In Ft. Worth, Jeff Wilson notes Rangers C J.P. Arencibia "is fine with the system as long as games aren’t slowed too much." Arencibia: "The biggest thing is getting a system that is efficient because the game is already one of the slower-paced games for fans" (FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM, 1/17). ESPN.com's David Schoenfield wrote, "Everyone will be worried about delays, but for the most part we'll be looking at two replays per game, four at the most." If it "takes 90 seconds to review a play, that's three-to-five minutes of added time per game." That is "worth it" (ESPN.com, 1/16).

POTENTIAL BACKLASH: In N.Y., Andy Martino wrote baseball games are "too damn slow, and this is a major problem for holding the attention of young fans." While MLB deserves "praise for embracing change and pursuing accuracy by expanding instant replay, it is tough not [to] think of this worst-case scenario" (NYDAILYNEWS.com, 1/16). ESPN's John Kruk wondered, "Is instant replay going to be instant?" He noted MLB games "are long now," and if the new system slows it down more, "we could lose some people" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 1/17). SNY's Adam Schein said the games could last 4-5 hours as "baseball has an image problem already" that the games are too long. Schein: "More replay makes it convoluted" ("Loud Mouths," SNY, 1/16). The GLOBE & MAIL's Jeff Blair writes MLB managers, players and fans "will now have a greater degree of certainty and, most likely, a longer game." Blair: "Welcome to the era of the 5 1/2-hour World Series game; welcome to the era of even more advertisements for Fox Broadcasting’s prime-time lineup" (GLOBE & MAIL, 1/17).

WORK IN PROGRESS
: FoxSports.com's Ken Rosenthal said fans should not "expect perfection in year one." Rosenthal: "Baseball fully anticipates that problems will surface and fully intends to adjust as warranted" ("Fox Sports Live," FS1, 1/16). MLB Network’s Chris Rose said, “I know that there are a lot of you griping, ‘Oh gosh, how much time is this going to add?’ You know what, the point is we’re trying to get things right. ... Are things going to be perfect in 2014? No! It’s a new system. Everybody take a deep breath. I like what we’re doing here” (“Intentional Talk,” MLB Network, 1/16).

LONG TIME COMING: ESPN.com's Jayson Stark wrote it "probably took roughly a decade too long for this miracle to happen," but Selig deserves a "firm pat on the shoulder here." Stark: "He finally stopped trying to convince us that nobody, in any dugout in the land, wanted more replay, and let this monumental development come about" (ESPN.com, 1/16). In L.A., Bill Plaschke writes the "ironically perfect thing about baseball's instillation of full instant replay is that it does not require a second look or video examination, or further review" (L.A. TIMES, 1/17). MLB.com's Richard Justice wrote the league "got better on Thursday afternoon." It got "more interesting too." The rollout is "Expanded Instant Replay 1.0." It is "so new and different that it's almost certain to be imperfect" (MLB.com, 1/16). In Denver, Troy Renck writes, "After further review, baseball is prepared to embrace the technology that has been available to fans watching on their couches for decades" (DENVER POST, 1/17).

LETTING IT GO: ESPN's Keith Olbermann noted if a manager decides to "challenge the ump's call and you’re right and the ump looks bad, you get another challenge." Olbermann: "This seems to me there's going to be a lot of vendettas springing from that." ESPN's Howard Bryant said, "There's nothing but vendettas between the umpires and the players. ... This is going to be an example where everyone is going to have to check their ego at the door" ("Olbermann," ESPN2, 1/16). CBS Sports Network's Doug Gottlieb noted replays will be shown in the ballpark, which "of course exposes the umpires when they blow" a call. Meanwhile, CBSSN's Allie LaForce said umpires "think this is a great thing because they got so much heat last season for some really bad blown calls." LaForce: "I just want to make sure that they're still held to a really high standard because with instant replay now, it's almost like they're off the hook a little bit" ("Lead Off," CBS Sports Network, 1/16). 
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