PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. - The lifelong baseball man sounded like a football coach Tuesday as he discussed what had once been foreign topics. They included instant replay, a partial ban on home plate collisions, and the strategy involved in deciding when to use an official challenge.
"It's a lot more things to think about," said Mets manager Terry Collins, who will soon learn the practical impact of baseball's rule book reforms.
For Collins and the rest of his managerial colleagues around the big leagues, spring training games will serve as the testing ground for greatly expanded instant replay rules and new guidelines that discourage collisions at home plate.
"I'm all for safety for everybody," Collins said.
Under the new rule, catchers may only block the plate if they have possession of the ball, while baserunners are prohibited from changing course to initiate contact with catchers.
"It takes away the cheap shots that there can be once in a while," Collins said. "But yet, if the situation calls, where the catcher's got the ball, there's going to be contact. I know I've had catchers in the past that relish it, look forward to it. And baserunners do the same. You're still going to have that excitement, yet the play where that guy gets in front of home plate and gives you nothing to work with, that's going to be done."
Mets catcher Anthony Recker called the rule change a smart compromise, since it essentially puts into writing one of baseball's unwritten rules. With some exceptions, catchers have customarily allowed runners a clear lane to home plate, thus taking away the need for a collision. The new rule simply codifies that courtesy.
"It should work out fine," Recker said. "I like the way it's written right now."
The new catching rule is one of many new plays that now fall under the scope of a vastly expanded instant replay system, which will be tested during exhibition games.
Collins said that instant replay has been discussed for so long that new rules themselves shouldn't prove too difficult to understand. However, getting used to some of the logistics behind replay may take some time to figure out.
For the first time, big-league managers will be given at least one NFL-style challenge per game, with replay available to review such plays as homers, force plays, tag plays, fair and foul calls in the outfield and trapped balls in the outfield.
"You've gotta have someone on that computer who has the ability to replay this stuff in a hurry," said Collins, who like his NFL counterparts, must now figure out a system to help determine whether a play is worth reviewing.
The Mets plan to set up a video review room near the clubhouse, though it is still unclear who will be in charge of manning the monitors. Meanwhile, teams will be permitted to install dugout phones, allowing bench coaches direct contact with the review room.
During meetings with league officials last week regarding the rules, Collins said determining the use of a challenge could take as little as 10 seconds, especially since about 12 different camera angles are expected to be available during the regular season.
Of course, teams have plenty of motivation to streamline how they decide upon challenging a play on the field, yet another variable that big-league managers must now consider.
"It all comes down to when you're going to use it," Collins said of the ability to challenge. "The numbers say you're not going to use it much. But we're going to have to wait and see."
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