The big change we all knew was coming to the 2014 MLB season is now official — expanded instant replay has been approved, and manager challenges are now a real part of the game.
Team owners, the player's association and the umpire's union agreed Thursday at the annual owner's meetings in Arizona to approve and implement the system for 2014. Here's the direct-from-MLB explanation of how the challenge system will work:
Managers will have at least one challenge to use. If any portion of a challenged play is overturned, then the manager who challenged the play will retain the ability to challenge one more play during the game. No manager may challenge more than two plays in a game. Once the manager has exhausted his ability to challenge plays during the game and after the beginning of the seventh inning, the Crew Chief may choose to invoke instant replay on any reviewable call. Home run and other boundary calls will remain reviewable under the procedures in place last season.
A designated communication location near home plate will be established at all 30 MLB ballparks. There, the Crew Chief and at least one other Major League Umpire will have access to a hard-wired headset connected to the Replay Command Center, which will remain at MLB Advanced Media headquarters in New York. Major League Umpires will be staffed as Replay Officials at the Replay Command Center. After viewing video feeds, the Replay Official will make the ultimate determination of whether to overturn the call, based on the continuing standard of whether there is clear and convincing evidence.
Here's the entire list of plays that are reviewable: home runs, ground rule doubles, fan interference, stadium boundary calls, force plays, tag plays, fair/foul (outfield only) trap play (outfield only), hit by pitch and timing plays (example: whether a runner scores before a third out).
As we talked about yesterday, the "neighborhood play" at second base is not reviewable. Taking that off the table is reportedly something that helped the player's association support the replay proposal.
Here's what Commissioner Bud Selig said about the replay overhaul:
"I am very pleased that instant replay will expand to include additional impactful plays. The new system will give managers valuable recourse in potentially game-changing situations. The opportunity for our fans to see more replays in our ballparks is also an important modification that the clubs and I favored."
In that last part, Selig is alluding to another plus of replay expansion. Ballparks will now be able to show all replays on the stadium scoreboard. It doesn't matter whether the play was challenged or not.
Here are a few more interesting tidbits about the replay system, per the MLB announcement:
• Managers will verbally initiate the replay process. No challenge flags or anything like that.
• Challenges have to be timely. However, the exact definition of "timely" and the time limit to initiate a challenge haven't been set yet.
• The umpires at the Replay Command Center — get used to hearing that phrase — have final say on a review. The umpires on the field cannot argue with their decision.
• "If the Replay Official overturns a call on the field, he will also use his judgment to determine where to appropriately place runners if the play had been called correctly on the field."
• The umpires on the field won't have a video monitor and won't leave the field during the review process.
• Per Eric Fisher of Sports Business Journal, MLB will hire two additional four-man umpiring crews to man the replay center in New York.
• Managers and their coaching staffs in the dugout will be able to communicate with a video specialist in the clubhouse to determine whether a play is a viable challenge contender, much like NFL allows.
Look for the replay system to roll out during spring training, so that personnel can become familiar with how it will be work before opening day.
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