Expanded instant replay has arrived in the major leagues, and that adds a new layer of decision-making for managers.
Under new rules announced Thursday, managers will be allowed one challenge per game to review calls on controversial plays. Those reviewable scenarios include: out/safe calls on the bases, force plays, fair/foul calls in the outfield, trap plays in the outfield and whether a batter was hit by a pitch.
If the challenging manager is correct in getting a call overturned, he receives a second challenge that can be used later in the game.
You know that image of the NFL head coach holding his red flag, looking back and forth and wondering whether to throw it and challenge a play? We’ll see similar snapshots in Major League dugouts starting with the upcoming season.
A’s manager Bob Melvin said he’s watched that scenario play out lots of times in NFL games, and he’s wondered what it would be like if he were granted the same authority to challenge.
“I’ve thought, I’m glad that’s not me (making the decision),” Melvin joked Friday. “But in any industry, if things go right, if another sport tries something out and it works, other sports are going to look to that.”
In actuality, Melvin has long voiced his hope that Major League Baseball would expand replay beyond the review of borderline home run calls, introduced in 2008. And like the other 29 managers, he’ll use the early part of the season to hone his strategy for when to exercise his new power. He’s hoping teams will get a chance to experiment with challenges during spring training.
“Like anything new, you feel it out and see how it plays out,” Melvin said. “Do you go out and argue? Do you wait for confirmation from the bench (on whether to challenge)? Do you use the challenge now or save it for later? A lot of things … it’s wait and see how it plays out. Ultimately, I think it’s good for the game.”
Umpires will be allowed to initiate reviews only from the seventh inning on. Plays will be reviewed from a New York-based headquarters, with a rotating crew of umpires staffing the replay center, reviewing the plays, issuing the decisions and relaying them back to the ballparks. Baseball officials say reviews should be completed in approximately one minute to 90 seconds.
According to espn.com, teams will be allowed to station a “video specialist” in the clubhouse to target reviewable plays, and that person will be allowed contact with the dugout via phone. But teams will only have so much time to decide whether to challenge. The challenge must be declared before the pitcher and hitter “are ready to go” for the next pitch, according to MLB executive vice president Joe Torre.
That’s where strategy will come in. Melvin said half-jokingly that a little “filibustering” might take place, where a manager goes out to argue in order to buy time in making a decision on whether to challenge. But if an argument goes on too long, umpires reportedly will be instructed to ask the manager if he wants to challenge on the spot, and the manager won’t have the luxury of returning to the dugout to seek input.
According to Atlanta Braves president John Schuerholz, who served on the committee that developed the expanded replay, adjustments and fine-tuning will be made over a three-year period of trial and error.
“I think they realize there could be some tweaks potentially down the road, and we’ll see how it works,” Melvin said.