Officiating in Major League Baseball, in theory, will be better than ever in 2014 after instant replay was approved Thursday, but the No. 1 concern is that games, in theory, will be longer than ever.
A replay system, featuring managerial challenges, will be implemented for the upcoming season after the 30 club owners unanimously voted to overhaul a sport that has embraced the human element for more than 100 years.
The players and umpires unions also gave their nod of approval while the annual Texas Rangers Winter Caravan made its way down the I-35 corridor Thursday afternoon.
Manager Ron Washington, left-hander Neal Cotts and catcher J.P. Arencibia met the masses at an Academy Sports + Outdoors in this tiny alcove, population 749, among the freeways and strip malls of Austin.
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They were unanimously in favor of getting as many calls as possible right, and they were also unanimously concerned about making games that already average nearly three hours, longer and longer.
“I think they’re trying to get things right, and if that can help get things right, then I’m all for it,” Washington said. “I just want the right call.”
Managers will be given up to two challenges per game. If they challenge a call and it is overturned, they will be given another challenge. Umpires can request a review after the start of the seventh inning if a manager has exhausted his challenges.
There is no red flag to throw or yellow ball to roll onto the field. A manager will go to the crew chief, who will then join at least one other umpire on a headset connected to the Replay Command Center in New York.
There, the replay officials will make the determination. Meanwhile, stadiums will be allowed to show replays of the play on their video boards for fans to see.
Just about every call is available to be reviewed. Strikes and balls are not subject to review, nor are fair and foul calls in the infield. Umpires will be allowed to huddle amongst themselves at any time to discuss a call.
“The new system will give managers valuable recourse in potentially game-changing situations,” commissioner Bud Selig said after the quarterly owners meetings in Paradise Valley, Ariz. “The opportunity for our fans to see more replays in our ballparks is also an important modification that the clubs and I favored.”
Managers won’t be allowed to make extended arguments or stall in order to give someone in the clubhouse a chance to see a replay before deciding whether to challenge a call.
Arencibia, who signed with the Rangers in December, is fine with the system as long as games aren’t slowed too much. He also has faith that umpires will continue to get most calls right the first time.
“The biggest thing is getting a system that is efficient because the game is already one of the slower-paced games for fans,” Arencibia said. “Umpires, to people’s surprise, do a lot better than people give them credit for. They’re right most of the time. Human error is part of the game, but I guess now that will change.”