MLB owners vote to move instant replay forward
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ORLANDO, Fla. -- Instant replay sharpened in focus for the 2014 season Thursday as Major League Baseball's owners voted to move forward with a proposed system that features manager challenges and a remote video center located in New York.
Now commissioner Bud Selig needs the approval of both the umpires' union and Players Association to implement the changes for the upcoming season. Both organizations will vote on the proposal in January, but Selig is confident enough in the eventual outcome that he put it to a vote with the owners during Thursday's general assembly meeting.
"Unless there's something I'm missing right now," Selig said, "we're going to have replay in 2014."
The framework is pretty much in place, with some final details still to be worked out in further discussions with the unions. The owners laid down a good portion of the groundwork during their August meetings in Cooperstown. But chief operating officer Rob Manfred -- a possible successor to Selig in 2015 -- presented a few new wrinkles Thursday.
Manfred said the number of manager's challenges would be two per game -- a departure from the initial plan of one for the first six innings and two more from the seventh inning to the game's end. That was changed out of concern for pace of play, which could be slowed by too many stoppages for video review.
"I think we've been clear from the very beginning that we want to get more plays right, the ones that matter," Manfred said, "and the countervailing consideration is how long it's going to take."
Also, like in the NFL, a manager gets to keep his challenge if the call is reversed through video review, meaning if he is correct, he could get a number of challenges. But no red flags. Instead, the manager likely will signal the umpire, who then will be given a headset to communicate with the central replay office. Last week, during test runs at the Arizona Fall League, the reviews took an average of 1:40, according to MLB's executive VP for baseball operations Joe Torre.
"The system will see some continuing evolution until we get to a point of stability, similar to what you saw in the NFL," Manfred said.
Not all the kinks have been ironed out. Manfred didn't want to get into too much detail about the entirety of plays that qualify for review until he has the chance to speak with the unions. But the basic outline includes most things with the exception of balls and strikes. The current home-run replay rule will stand as well and not be part of the challenge system.
One complication involves the manager-umpire dynamic as it pertains to on-field arguments. A challenge is supposed to save time, and the assumption is the manager will forgo jawing with an umpire to get the play reviewed. Should a manager begin arguing, however, he can't then challenge the play after a prolonged delay.
"The idea is what we'd like to have is a trade-off," Manfred said. "What we want to avoid is arguing for a while and then you challenge because it's cumulative at that point. We don't want to be subject to manipulation."
Despite those loose ends, Selig sounds comfortable with the almost-finished product. And whatever growing pains instant replay suffers, it's still better than the alternative.
"Why would I say no to this?" Selig said. "The logic was overwhelming."