Major League Baseball owners have agreed to test two different advanced replay systems live during games starting next week, and if they prove accurate they could precede an overhaul of the system for the 2013 season, sources told Yahoo! Sports.
MLB will analyze a radar-based system and a camera-based system, both similar to the one used in tennis for down-the-line fair-or-foul calls. Yankee Stadium and Citi Field will be the guinea-pig parks for the systems, which have been installed recently.
This is good news; it shows that baseball officials are actually taking serious steps toward adding review for more calls. Passan further reports that tests will occur on both game days and non-game days; they are, he says, trying to make sure such a system will be accurate.
That’s pretty much all those who are advocating for more replay review are asking for. The pace has been glacial, but it appears to be picking up.
The National Hockey League has had a centralized video-review system in place for nearly ten years. Major League Baseball can learn a thing or two from the NHL about how to set up and operate a fair and efficient system.
Yahoo’s Jeff Passan wrote a 1,500-word epic article Friday on the need for replay review, featuring various blown calls and blowups involving umpires Laz Diaz and Mark Wegner this week.
There was also this nugget which could go a long way toward explaining why Bud Selig has dragged his feet so long on this issue:
Much of Selig’s reticence has to do with his romantic attachment to old-time baseball – which, you know, didn’t have one wild card (or two), an All-Star game that “counted” and interleague play. There’s the financial factor, too. A football source said the NFL spends about $4 million a year on instant replay. With almost 10 times as many games, new equipment and a fifth umpire with each crew to monitor the replay booth, MLB’s annual costs could go well into eight figures.
Of course, a fifth umpire with each crew isn’t what the latest proposals call for; it’s review at a central location, possibly even using equipment already in place at MLB Network. TV channels already pay for covering the games — that wouldn’t cost MLB anything.
In a $3-billion industry, Selig’s worried about $4 million, or even $10 million? The first figure barely buys a middle reliever these days.
Blown call after blown call. We see them weekly, if not more often, and sometimes they can change the outcome of games.
MLB has inched toward replay review by instituting a review of disputed home runs, but, led by Commissioner-for-Life Bud Selig, the league has dawdled when presented with situations that could easily be reviewed and corrected.
A group of umpires will watch games from a central location
On plays that are “clearly wrong” the group would then signal the umpires at the game and let them know there is an obvious call that needs to be changed
MLB hopes to implement an introductory version of the system in 2013
The initial system would only review home runs, whether a ball is fair or foul, and whether or not a player caught a ball
The system would then be expanded “after a year or so” once the system is optimized
At that point, the system would be expanded “to all sorts of calls.” However, Stark says exactly what would be included would have to be negotiated
This sounds similar to the NHL review system, where disputed goals are reviewed in a central location. What’s proposed here is neither perfect nor comprehensive, but it’s a start, and it's something MLB should have done years ago.
As could probably have been expected, we have seen several more obviously wrong umpiring calls this season, leading to more inquiries as to when we’re going to get replay review expanded — something that was promised last November in the new MLB-MLBPACBA.
Joe Torre, MLB’s executive vice president for baseball operations, told me Wednesday that instant replay does not have an official place on the agenda at the owners meetings next week.
Oh, they’ll keep talking about it. Much harrumphing is expected. It’s entirely possible that we’ll have something by 2013, but that’s a promise that should have been kept this year. Morosi’s article does have one very good suggestion, made by a MLB general manager, which would expand upon the “fifth umpire in the press box” concept that many observers have championed:
Milwaukee Brewers general manager Doug Melvin suggested a similar plan to me this week: He would allow the fifth umpire to correct calls that were obviously missed because of a bad angle by the umpire. (That would cover the Welke play, for example.)
Another feature of Melvin’s plan: “I would recommend each club gets one upstairs review on offense and one on defense during the game. I would experiment in September with games but not activate it and see how many calls that would be reviewed could impact a game. The umpires, players and field staff should all be a part of the process to determine if replay should be extended beyond home run calls.”
Sounds great. Time for Bud Selig to step out of the 1970s and get it done.
Both sides indicated support of expanding instant replay, currently used on disputed calls involving potential home runs, but the details of how to handle more replays were not worked out. At the time, the indication was that additional usage of replay would have to wait until the 2013 season because of concern about an in-season rules change.
Selig, however, said that is no longer a concern.
“It was a practical matter,” Selig said of the delay on the expanded use of replays . "I think we are going to get it done on balls hit down the first and third base lines, and balls trapped in the outfield. (Manager) Mike Scioscia of the Angels is always talking about trapped balls.
“I hope we can get it done before this year is over. They are working on it now.”
Sounds like Opening Day isn’t realistic. Must be a lot more complicated than it seems. But we shouldn’t be surprised if this happens at some point in the second half of the season. And the sooner, we think, the better.
The new collective bargaining agreement (CBA) brought along quite a few changes -- free-agent compensation rankings, caps on amateur spending, the hilarious competitive balance draft -- but one of the parts that almost no one complained about was an informal commitment to expanded instant replay.
Baseball had hoped to increase video reviews this season to include trapped balls, fair-or-foul calls down the lines and fan interference all around the ballpark.
The additional replay required the approval of MLB and the unions representing the umpires and the players. MLB executive Rob Manfred told The Associated Press on Tuesday that all three sides weren't able to come up with an agreement.
Umpires were understandably reluctant to move the game one step closer to the eventual robot revolution, in which artificial intelligence rules and umpires are superfluous. More than that, though, it was probably just a total logistical mess for three different (and obstinate) parties to agree on anything in time for the the season. It was a victory to get the CBA ratified before a work stoppage; let's not get greedy.
Well, a little greedy would be OK. You'll certainly think of this decision the first time your team gets hosed on a blown foul call, at least.
Yes, the new Collective Bargaining Agreement between Major League Baseball and the Players Association means five more years of labor peace. But there are big changes afoot, and we've got the only primer you'll ever need.