MLB has announced that expanded instant replay has been approved by the MLB owners, the World Umpires Association, and the MLBPA for the 2014 season. Nearly every play on the field is covered, but fail/foul calls on balls in the infield, ball/strike calls, and the neighborhood play at second base will not be reviewable. I'm just going to go ahead and copy/paste the bulk of the press release because there's a lot going on here.
The full listing of plays that can be reviewed are as follows.
-Ground rule double
-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)
-Record keeping (Ball-strike count to a batter, outs, score, and substitutions)
Just from looking at that list, nothing immediately jumps out at me as missing from the list. The lack of ball/strike replays is a good thing – that was one of the major gripes by people who were opposed to replay and convinced that games would slow to a glacial pace and that there would be a review every inning.
How will a replay work? Good question!
-Field managers may initiate replay review on one reviewable play per game by verbally indicating his intention to challenge, in a timely manner, to the Crew Chief. Guidelines will be established to determine whether a challenge is timely.
-The manager may request that the umpire review multiple portions of the same play, but he must specify exactly which portions of the play he is challenging.
-If any portion of a challenged play is overturned, 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. In that circumstance, the Crew Chief is not obligated to invoke instant replay if requested by the manager.
-Home run calls that are currently subject to instant replay review will continue to be reviewed at the Crew Chief's discretion. Managers may request that an Umpire review a home run call, but managers cannot challenge home run calls.
The challenge system could end up being a mess. I can't wait until a less savvy manager blows his challenge in the first inning on an inconsequential call. I do like that the Crew Chief has the ability to initiate a replay after the seventh inning, but at the same time, I think that it's going to remove one element of strategy from the replay process.
How will the reviews work? Another great question!
-Once instant replay review is invoked (either by the Manager or the Crew Chief), the Crew Chief will signal to the official scorer that the play is under review.
-The Crew Chief and at least one other umpire will then move to a designated communication location near home plate, where they will have access to a hard-wired headset connected to the Replay Command Center in New York.
-Major League Umpires will be staffed as Replay Officials at the Replay Command Center, located at MLB Advanced Media headquarters, for all Major League games.
-The Replay Command Center will have direct access to video from most cameras in the ballpark in real-time, regardless of whether they are shown on the live broadcast.
-The Replay Official will look at the video feeds and determine if there is clear and convincing evidence to overturn the call on the field. 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 will not have a monitor to review the play and they will not leave the field at any time.
-The Replay Official will make the ultimate determination of whether to overturn the call.
-On-Field personnel may not argue with the decision of the Replay Official.
Ah yes, the command center approach…that's probably the best way to do it as opposed to the current "one umpire leaves the field and they all hang out" method that's currently being used.
What about the challenge itself? Do managers have the ability to see what they're challenging?
-To determine whether to challenge a play, personnel in the dugout will be permitted to communicate with a video specialist in the Clubhouse who has access to the same video that is available to Replay Officials. This communication will occur via the dugout phone.
-Both the home and visiting Clubs will have standardized technology to ensure each Club has equal access to all video.
-No monitors or additional electronic equipment will be permitted in the dugout.
-Clubs will now have the right to show replays of all close plays on its ballpark scoreboard, regardless of whether the play is reviewed.
Technology, hooray! Showing replays in the stadium will at least somewhat enhance the fan experience during the replay process, because there's nothing worse than sitting around during a review and not knowing what the hell is going on because replays aren't allowed to be shown on the scoreboard. Also, it'll probably end up making fans a tad bit less reliant on jammed WiFi or cell networks at the stadium, because they can just look at the damn scoreboard for a replay as opposed to immediately loading up MLB.tv and trying to pull up a video clip or opening Twitter and crowd sourcing just what the hell happened during the play.