We already knew that the owners had approved the use of expanded instant replay in MLB games for this coming season. The final hurdles were the approval of both the players and umpires. Thursday, MLB commissioner Bud Selig announced that every step had been satisfied and that expanded replay is officially a go for 2014.
"I am very pleased that instant replay will expand to include additional impactful plays," commissioner Selig said in a statement. "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.
"I thank the Major League Players and Umpires for their cooperation with this change, which will serve our shared game well. I also extend my gratitude to John Schuerholz, Joe Torre, Tony La Russa, Peter Woodfork and Chris Marinak, all of whom worked extremely hard to make this highly complicated task a reality."
Now, onto what everyone cares about. The new system.
First of all, home run calls that were previously reviewed will continue to be reviewed at the discretion of the crew chief. A challenge (we'll get to that) won't be required.
Method of review
Via the press release: 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.
Worth note here is that the replay officials will be watching from the command center and will not be present in the stadium. What's more, the umpires on the field will not view a monitor, leave the field or help make the final decision. They will simply be told what the final decision is.
Each manager enters the game with one challenge. If he uses his challenge and any portion of the play is overturned, he keeps his challenge. He can only use it one more time, though. So the limit is two.
How to challenge
The manager is to initiate review by verbally indicating to the crew chief his intention to officially challenge a play. This has to happen in a "timely" fashion and MLB notes that guidelines will be put in place to define what "timely" actually means. Obviously once the next pitch is thrown would be a starting point, but it's possible "timely" will be quicker than that.
What if a manager is out of challenges?
Before the seventh inning, tough luck, Mr. Manager. From the seventh inning on, the crew chief may decide to invoke instant replay on any qualifying play, though he's not required to do so upon manager request.
The following plays are specifically reviewable and this list is exhaustive -- that is, no other plays are reviewable:
Home runs, ground-rule doubles, fan interference, boundary calls (fielder or ball going into stands, etc.), force play (except for the fielder's touching of second base on a double play, aka "the neighborhood play"), tags, fair/foul calls in outfield only, "traps" in the outfield on a potential catch, whether or not a batter is hit by a pitch, timing plays (whether a runner leaves early when tagging up), touching bases, one runner passing another and record keeping (if there's a dispute about the count, score, number of outs, etc.).
Other pertinent information
• All MLB clubs have the right to show replays of any play during the game, regardless of whether or not it is being reviewed.
• Each club will be allowed a video specialist in the clubhouse to help decide whether or not to challenge plays. There won't be monitors in the dugout, but there will be communication technology available so thet manager may be in touch with the video specialist -- and equal access to video for the home and visiting teams is required.
• "On-field personnel may not argue with the decision of the Replay Official." The press release doesn't elaborate here on penalty, but there may be a quick hook on ejections.
• If there is a situation where baserunner(s) need to be moved after a call has been overturned, the replay official will use his judgment to determine where the runner(s) belong.
• Eight additional umpires have been hired to help adequately staff the command center.
•The new replay system will be used during some televised spring training games to help test it.