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MLB approves more instant replay with manager's challenges

MLB Commissioner Bud Selig talks to the media

MLB Commissioner Bud Selig talks to the media following baseball's general managers' meetings in Orlando, Fla. (Nov. 14, 2013) Credit: AP

PARADISE VALLEY, Ariz. -- Coming on Opening Day to a ballpark near you: a lot more instant replay.

Commissioner Bud Selig on Thursday announced a sweeping expansion of MLB's instant replay system. It has a manager's challenge component and a host of plays that now will be reviewable, including safe/out, fair/foul and trap plays in the outfield.

"Our fans will love it," Selig said at the conclusion of the quarterly owners' meetings.

The system was approved by baseball's owners in a 30-0 vote and also was OKd by the unions for umpires and players.

The umpires will receive eight more jobs; two crews will be added so umpires can monitor games at MLB's advanced media headquarters in Manhattan -- what the league is calling "the Replay Command Center." One umpire will be assigned to monitor two games at a time and will be the final decision-maker on a replay review.

The players are gaining -- at least in theory -- the ability to not have games decided by umpiring mistakes. Before the upcoming season, replays were limited to home run calls, and the reviews and decisions were made by umpires in the ballpark.

Managers are gaining the ability to challenge incorrect calls at least once and a maximum of two times per game (a second challenge will be granted if the first one is successful in getting any part of a call overturned).

But managers also will be gaining a new headache: at what point in the game to use their first challenge. Second-guessing that strategy likely also will be part of the new system.

Managers who attempt to flaunt the system by stalling so they can get more time to decide whether to challenge a call will be "subject to discipline," according to Joe Torre, MLB's executive vice president of baseball operations. Torre designed the system along with former Braves general manager John Schuerholz and former manager Tony La Russa.

The final system was scaled back from previous incarnations, which had up to three manager's challenges per game. Also, force plays at second base during a double play will not be reviewable; the union doesn't want middle infielders to have to stay on second base longer than they do now (commonly known as "the neighborhood play") because of fear of injury.

But almost everything else in a game except for balls and strikes is up for review. Home runs will be grandfathered in so managers will not have to use a challenge to determine if a ball is a home run; umpires on the field will continue to determine whether to review a home run, although a manager can request it.

Also, fans in the stadium will have access to replays on the main scoreboard for any close plays. Previously, the umpires' union had blocked teams from showing close plays on the scoreboard.

The new system will be tested in some spring training games. Each regular-season game at the 30 MLB stadiums will have a minimum of 12 television angles for the replay from which the umpire can choose. The league 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 Diamondbacks that will be played March 22-23 in Sydney, Australia. MLB officials said they are unsure if they can equip the Sydney Cricket Grounds in time for the new system.

Torre said rules banning home-plate collisions still are being written and discussed with the players' union. MLB hopes those new rules will be adopted for this season.

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