Joe Torre, one of the architects of baseball's expanded instant replay system, was asked at its unveiling Thursday if he would have liked to have had it available to him during his Hall of Fame managing career.
"I really wouldn't have liked to have had it in the '96 championship series,'' Torre said to laughter at the owners' meetings in Paradise Valley, Ariz.
Torre was referring to the infamous Jeffrey Maier play, in which an 11-year-old fan reached over the rightfield wall at Yankee Stadium and interfered with a ball hit by Derek Jeter in the eighth inning of Game 1 of the 1996 ALCS against the Orioles.
Jeter's ball was ruled a game-tying home run by umpire Richie Garcia and the Yankees went on to win the game in extra innings, the series in five games and the World Series.
With no replay system in place, there was no mechanism to overturn the call. With replay, Jeter could have been called out for fan interference, and the beginning tide of the Yankees' most recent dynasty might have been forever altered.
But at least they would have gotten it right.
"This is historic and, as you can tell, quite complex,'' said replay committee chairman John Schuerholz, the former Braves general manager. "It's the first time in the history of the game where managers have an opportunity to change the call of a play that may have adversely affected their team, that may have cost them a game, that may have cost them the division, may have cost them the World Series.''
Managers will have at least one and as many as two challenges per game (they get an extra challenge if the first one is successful). From the seventh inning on, umpires will be able to review calls on their own without a manager's challenge.
"To me, having something you've never had before as a manager -- it's a strategy thing,'' Torre said. "The umpires are allowed to go on their own if a particular manager doesn't have a challenge left.''
Baseball executives estimate that the new system will make nearly 90 percent of missed calls subject to review, but it's up to the manager to decide when and if to request that first challenge on a safe/out, fair/foul, trap/no trap or one of nine other new categories listed by MLB.
(Unlike the NFL, managers will not throw a red challenge flag. They will politely -- or perhaps not so politely -- ask umpires to review the play. The decision to overturn or uphold the call will be made by a fifth umpire at baseball's "Replay Command Center'' in Manhattan.)
"We told our managers at the winter meetings, 'You have tough decisions in the game,' '' said committee member Tony La Russa, who will enter the Hall of Fame with Torre in July. "That's what they pay you for. If those bother you, you're doing the wrong job . . . And that's what this is. It's a challenge for a game-changing play that goes against you.''
Actually, if the new system had been in place, then-Orioles manager Davey Johnson wouldn't have had to use a challenge on Jeter's ball. Home runs have been reviewable since 2009 and will remain so without a manager needing to use a challenge.
"The umpires -- I can tell you to a man -- they don't want to see themselves on television the night of a game that is lost because of a missed call,'' Torre said. "So whether it's a fact that a manager will go out and argue and say, 'Take a look at that,' I have a feeling that there really won't be any question on what should be reviewed in those last three innings or beyond.''