Friday Rockpile: the details of instant replay

David Maxwell

Challenges!

Details of the new replay system, to be implemented in 2014, emerged yesterday. And frankly, they sound pretty good. There might still be partisans out there who want to keep the replays off their danged baseball, because Human Element and Sanctity Of The Game...but you guys lost. It's happening. Below are the guidelines:

Each manager will be permitted one challenge in a game. If the challenge is upheld in any portion, he will retain the right to challenge one more play. A manager will not be allowed to challenge more than two plays in a game.

If a manager has exhausted his challenges, the umpiring crew chief may initiate a review on any close play from the seventh inning forward.

I can't really think of any convincing reason why MLB capped the challenge limit at two, but there it is. Either way, it doesn't seem likely that there will be too many games with three blown calls against the same team in 7 innings.

All reviews will be conducted at the Replay Command Center at MLBAM headquarters in New York. Two additional four-man umpiring crews will be hired and umpires will be rotated through New York to review video feeds. Every ballpark will have a designated communication location near home plate. 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. The decision of the replay official in New York will be final.

I like this set up a lot. Home run reviews have been horrible experiences since their inception. First the manager had to go out and complain, then the umps would huddle up to decide if they should review, then they'd troop off the field to God knows where to look at a probably lousy replay feed...and all this would take forever.

Hopefully the war room in New York will be high tech and instantaneous, so that after the manager decides to challenge, we'll have a result in a matter of seconds. The guys in New York will tell the crew chief what to do and we can be on our way. This, I think, is the ideal way to have a replay setup.

Teams will now be allowed to show all replays on the in-park video board, regardless of whether the play was reviewed.

Awesome. One of the most aggravating aspects of attending a game is the lack of jumbo-tron replay on close plays. All because they don't want to "show up" the umpires. This would keep us from savoring awesome Tulo jump throws and the like because it was close at first. I'm glad that policy is going the way of the dodo.

The following play types will be subject to review:

• Home run
• Ground-rule double
• Fan interference
• Stadium boundary calls (e.g., fielder into stands, ball into stands triggering dead ball)
• Force play (except the fielder's touching of second base on a double play)
• Tag play (including steals and pickoffs)
• Fair/foul in outfield only
• Trap play in outfield only
• Batter hit by pitch
• Timing play (whether a runner scores before a third out)
• Touching a base (requires appeal)
• Passing runners
• Record keeping (Ball-strike count to a batter, outs, score, and substitutions)

All other plays will not be reviewable; however, the umpires may still convene on the field at any time to discuss the play.

Seems pretty comprehensive. It's interesting that the neighborhood play, after living decades as an unwritten rule, is now written. Balls and strikes are still up to the umpire's discretion, so those of you in favor of the robo-umps, you'll have to wait a few more years it appears.

Whatever your feelings on instant replay and this system in particular, it seems that the days of blown calls deciding games are officially at an end. That's a good thing in my book. So, upon further review: good job MLB.

LINKS

Here's the ever-amusing Grant Brisbee's take on the new system.

The Rockies signed catcher Michael McKenry, former prospect, to a Minor League deal. McKenry had a solid 2012 campaign when he slugged 12 homers for the Pirates, but he's coming off a down 2013. He's a solid piece of depth to add to a position that the Rockies are thin at. ZiPS project McKenry to hit .231/.292/.373 in Pittsburgh.

Also included in that link is a note that the Rockies have come to terms with Wilton Lopez (in all meanings of the phrase), inking a $2.2 million deal. The team will expect a better 2014 out of Lopez than what he displayed in 2013. That leaves only Juan Nicasio and Drew Stubbs as the only remaining arbitration eligible players. Expect to see them sign deals soon.

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