TORONTO — After years of discussing it, mulling it, tabling it, and calling it blasphemy, Major League Baseball has come full circle and is ready for expanded replay for the 2014 season. A plan outlined by a replay committee and endorsed by commissioner Bud Selig received positive reaction at the quarterly owners’ meetings in Cooperstown, N.Y., the past two days.
With 75 percent approval from the owners and a thumbs-up from the unions representing players and umpires, the plan will become a reality. Team owners will vote on the proposal in November.
Selig announced the plan Thursday after all 30 teams heard presentations made by the replay committee Wednesday. The committee is comprised of Braves president John Schuerholz and ex-managers Joe Torre and Tony La Russa, all of whom work in the commissioner’s office and handle special assignments for Selig.
Selig, who had been against replay in the past because of fear of altering and/or slowing the game too much, has embraced the concept of expanded replay. The new rule would allow up to three challenges from managers, one in the first six innings and two more from the seventh inning on. A manager who wins a challenge will retain it. Balls and strikes are not reviewable.
If a manager feels a call is incorrect he will file a challenge with the plate umpire or crew chief. Only reviewable plays can be challenged, but non-reviewable plays can still be addressed and a manager can request the umpires discuss it.
“I’m proud of them,” Selig said of the replay committee. “It’s worked out remarkably well. It’s historic. There’s no question about it.”
Speaking from Cooperstown, Schuerholz said umpires have been very positive about the change. He said that 89 percent of incorrect calls made in the past will be reviewable.
“We believe this will be very impactful and very, very meaningful and useful for all sides,” Schuerholz said. “Managers will have a new tool that they’ll have to learn how to use.”
Umpires will undergo training for the change in the Arizona Fall League and in spring training to prepare for the regular season. The system will also be used in the 2014 playoffs, and the system could be tweaked or expanded by then.
“We know we have to prepare people for this,” Schuerholz said. “Everyone is embracing it. We believe managers will in time.”
Schuerholz indicated that the first year of the new plan will be reviewed and adjustments could be made. He said there will be a direct line with MLB headquarters in New York. The expectation is that replay will take about 1 minute 15 seconds.
“We want to prevent stalling,” Schuerholz said. “If it’s a reviewable play, [the manager] has to tell the umpires he’s going to review it.”
Toronto manager John Gibbons was all in on the plan, and his only worry was the delay affecting the pitcher.
“You always want to get the call right,” Gibbons said. “It’s going to be interesting to see how often it happens that plays are challenged. We’ve had a few plays here and there this year, but nothing that’s really cost us a game. I think we want to make sure that it just doesn’t get to the point where there are too many disruptions in play.”
Like Gibbons, Red Sox manager John Farrell supports the plan.
“I think, just in general, the inclusion of video replay is good for the game,” he said. “I think the game is ready for additional technology to be brought in. And it will be interesting to see if any adjustments, or what the final use of it, or availability of it will be, once they get through the negotiations in the offseason.”
Rays manager Joe Maddon has been a longtime advocate of expanded replay. He wasn’t too excited about one aspect of the plan.
“I just don’t like the idea that the earlier part of the game is considered less important than the latter part of the game, that’s all,’’ he said. “We’ve lost games in the first inning.’’
The Red Sox’ Daniel Nava has been directly involved in a couple of bad calls, the most glaring in a makeup game with Tampa Bay July 29 when umpire Jerry Meals called him out when the replay clearly showed Nava had gotten his hand on the plate before Rays catcher Jose Molina blocked him off.
Meals admitted in a statement that he was out of position and got the call wrong.
There are those, such as the Sox’ Jonny Gomes, who love the human element of the game but have come around to expanded replay.
“I don’t think it’s a knock on the umpires, but I think the game is faster than it’s ever been,” he said. “With our technology, let’s use it.”
Nava’s other controversial play came June 23 against the Tigers when Nava hovered under Avisail Garcia’s fly ball in right, caught it, and then dropped it on the transfer. Nava was charged with an error and second base umpire Mike DiMuro ruled he dropped it. That helped set up the go-ahead run.
“You don’t like to take the human element out of the game because that’s what makes baseball baseball,” he said. “But if it can help make some calls right, I think everyone is a fan of that.”
Speaking from New York, Angels lefthander C.J. Wilson said, “We’ve had some instances where calls haven’t been right over the last couple years. That’s why we’ve gone to replay. When the season comes down to the last game, if team loses a game because replay wasn’t used . . . If they lose the wild card by a half-game, they can point to that and say that game cost us the playoffs. That’s what we don’t want to happen.”