Owners approve funding for expanded replay
Selig encouraged by progress; number of challenges per manager not finalized
ORLANDO, Fla. -- Major League Baseball took another giant step toward implementing expanded instant replay with unanimous approval of funding on Thursday at the league's quarterly Owners Meetings.
"We made a gigantic move today, and I'm very pleased about that," Commissioner Bud Selig said.
Some details remain to be worked out before a vote for final implementation at the next scheduled Owners Meetings, set for Phoenix in January. Additionally, the plan must still be approved by the Major League Baseball Players Association and the World Umpires Association.
However, all indications are that the new system will be up and running in time for the opening of the upcoming season.
"I think we're quite far along," Selig said. "The bottom line is, we're moving forward on replay. People spoke very emotionally about it. Clubs are very excited about it. Unless there's something I'm missing right now, we're going to have replay in 2014."
Added chief operating officer Rob Manfred: "We've had positive discussions with both the WUA and the MLBPA about the expansion of replay, and I'm confident we're going to be able to make an agreement with both unions in time for next season."
Manfred said the "contours" of the new system -- a manager challenge system, all replays reviewed out of MLB Advanced Media's offices in New York, umpires on the field communicating with the review officials via headphones -- are pretty well established. Still, there is much to nail down.
There has already been one change made from the blueprint that was unveiled at the Owners Meetings in Cooperstown, N.Y., in August. At that time, managers were to have one challenge in the first six innings and two from the seventh to the conclusion of the game. Instead, there will be one set of challenges for the entire game, although it's still to be determined whether each manager will get one or two challenges.
In either case, the manager would retain his challenge if he's right and forfeit it if he's wrong. There are ongoing discussions about the circumstances under which the umpires could decide to review a close call if one or both managers has run out of challenges.
It also hasn't been decided how many replay officials would be in New York.
"What I would say to you is that the people who review in New York are most likely to be active or former Major League umpires, or people with extensive umpiring experience," Manfred said.
Another issue still being studied includes how to keep managers or players from stalling to allow a coach or club employee to look at a replay in order to help a manager decide whether to challenge or not. Selig volunteered Thursday that he is aggressively seeking suggestions to improve the pace of games, and that's part of the bigger picture involving replay.
"We have thought extensively about that, and there are a series of rules that are out there for consideration to deal with that issue," Manfred said. "The current thinking is that if a manager comes out and argues, once he argues, he can't challenge that play. Thinking about pace of game, what we'd like to have is a tradeoff. We no longer spend time arguing. In return, you have a right to challenge. What we want to avoid is, 'You argue for awhile and then you challenge,' because it's obviously cumulative at that point.
"We are very intent on dealing with ... controlling the time of [a] challenge. We don't want to be subject to manipulation. I think we've been clear from the beginning that we want to get more plays right, the ones that matter. And the countervailing consideration is how long it's going to take."
Replay currently addresses only boundary calls involving home runs. The new system will encompass almost all decisions -- although notably not balls and strikes -- but even exactly which plays will be included remains somewhat in flux.
Manfred said he couldn't get into specifics on various proposals or say exactly what the project will cost.
"Some of these operational details, we're talking to two unions about," Manfred said. "And talking to two unions is hard enough without me talking to [the media] about it. Whatever I say publicly about it probably won't be helpful, one place or the other.
"And I'd rather not do system costs. At this point, there are some decisions that need to be made from a technology standpoint that could change those numbers significantly. So until those decisions are made and we've cleared them with the clubs, it's just not fair for me to do it here. It's not cheap, I'll tell you that. Truthfully, though, cost has not been a driving determination."
Even when expanded replay is fully operational, there are likely to be tweaks in the future.
"It is likely that the system will see some continuing evolution until we get to the point of stability," Manfred said.
Still, Thursday's vote was significant and neatly sets the stage for final approval in January.
Among the other topics Selig addressed on Thursday:
• Plans by the Blue Jays and Mets to play exhibition games in Montreal this spring.
"I think it's wonderful," Selig said. "I think it's great. I really do. I will pay close attention to it. ... Listen, this comes from them; it doesn't come from us. We don't have any clubs moving, and we certainly don't have any expansion plans. But I give them a lot of credit. There are people up there who really believe in this, and good for them. I'm happy about it."
• Whether baseball has or needs an anti-bullying policy in the wake of the National Football League's controversy involving the Miami Dolphins.
"The only thing I can say to you about baseball -- and I don't want to talk about any other sports -- is that I'm proud of our players," Selig said. "I'm proud of the way they've acted. And I don't have any concerns on that subject."
• The report by chief executive officer Bob Bowman on the status of MLB.com.
"[He] gave a marvelous presentation on the success of [Major League] Baseball Advanced Media," Selig said. "It's interesting. I remarked to the clubs that I remember the day -- January 19, 2000 -- that we created BAM. I never could have believed that, 13 years later, it would be the great success it's been -- really a leader in the field. It's exceeded every expectation. I can't tell you how proud I am."
Selig added that there is nothing to report on the efforts of the Athletics and Rays to secure new ballparks, but he noted that Tampa Bay owner Stuart Sternberg will meet soon with new St. Petersburg mayor, Rick Kriseman, who will be sworn into office in January. The Commissioner had previously mentioned the possibility of intervening, but he said that isn't necessary at the moment.
Paul Hagen is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.