Major League Baseball ramped up its instant replay system Thursday, with owners, players and umpires approving sweeping changes in how close calls will be reviewed.
A look at the new way of putting extra eyes on the umps:
WHAT CAN BE REVIEWED? Most every call on the field, except balls-and-strikes and checked swings. A notable exception is the “neighborhood play” at second base on potential double plays. There might be times when runners are called out, even if middle infielders aren’t quite on the bag with the ball — there were safety concerns from many about the danger of hard slides wiping out shortstops and second basemen who linger too long.
HOW CAN A CALL BE CONTESTED? Each manager will be allowed at least one challenge per game. No need to toss any NFL-style red flags, a manager merely tells the crew chief he wants another look. If the manager is right, he gets one more challenge. If a manager runs out of challenges, the crew chief can decide on his own to review a call starting in the seventh inning.
WHO MAKES THE CALL? Current MLB umpires will staff a replay command center at MLB.com‘s office in New York. They will check the TV angles and make the final decision. They also will decide where to reset the runners if, for example, a call is reversed from out to safe on a near catch in the outfield. And once a replay decision is made, it cannot be argued.
WHEN DOES IT TAKE EFFECT? This year, although it may not be used when the Los Angeles Dodgers and Arizona Diamondbacks open the regular season with a two-game series in Sydney, Australia. The replay rules will remain through the end of the World Series. The players’ union has given its approval for 2014 and will review it for beyond next season.
ANY OTHER TWEAKS? Managers and others will now be allowed to talk on the dugout phone to someone in the clubhouse who can watch the video feed and advise whether to challenge a call — that was a no-no in the past. Stadium video boards also can show replays of any close play, regardless of whether it is reviewed.
ANYTHING ELSE EXEMPT? Obstruction and interference calls are still subject to an umpire’s judgment. That was last seen in October when Allen Craig of the Cardinals was awarded home plate after tangling with Boston third baseman Will Middlebrooks, ending Game 3 of the World Series.
WHAT’S NEXT? With MLB joining the NFL, NBA, NHL, Grand Slam tennis and soccer’s English Premier League in ramping up replay, baseball will turn its attention to banning home plate collisions. There are expectations that guidelines will be in place this season.