Orioles manager Buck Showalter has been an advocate of expanded instant replay, and he has been pretty vocal about the topic -- both its benefits and downfalls.
Now that expanded replay will be enacted this season -- last Thursday, Major League Baseball announced that all 30 clubs unanimously approved the proposal -- the new system could change the way the game is viewed and played. That will lead to an adjustment process for teams, umpires, players and managers.
But, ultimately, the goal is to get calls right, Showalter said.
“I know it’s not going to be perfect,” Showalter said. “I think we all need to be patient with it. I think when it’s all said and done, it will not slow the games down in its finished product. There are some unknowns there. I was for all they were willing to put in.
“There’s a starting point, I think you have to keep in mind. They spent the past two years in NFL replay booths, college football replay booths. They’ve been looking at a lot of systems trying to figure out how you do it and don’t do it. I think you’re going to be surprised at how quick it works. I know one thing. Can you imagine the umpires and the position they’re in and now going out on the field knowing they’re going to be right on just about everything? These guys take a lot of pride in their work, and at the end of the day, they’re going to be able to walk in at the end of the day and someone not say to them, ‘You cost somebody the game.’ I think people who have been around the game realize that sometimes it’s 50-50 and sometimes you’re wrong.”
Plays which can be now be reviewed under expanded replay include home runs, ground-rule doubles, fan interference, tag plays, fair or foul rulings on fly balls, trapped balls, hit batters and runners leaving bases too early or passing another runner on the base paths. Force plays can also be reviewed, except for the “neighborhood play” -- the sometimes phantom touching of second base when turning a double play.
Balls and strikes will not be reviewable.
Each manager will get at least one challenge per game. They will be awarded a second if their first challenge is successful. The umpire crew chief will have the option to review plays on his own beginning in the seventh inning.
Managers will also be allowed access to video replays before deciding whether to challenge a play.
“The way I understand it, they’re going to have a phone in the dugout,” Showalter said. “The challenge they’ve got, they’re trying to make sure everybody is the same distance from the dugout to the video room. That’s going to be hard to do. I’m going to be patient because there’s a lot of stuff they’re going to have to work out.”
It might be only slightly different than what Showalter has done in the past in contesting calls. When he came out of the dugout to argue a call, he said he’d position himself in view of bench coach John Russell, who would give him a thumbs up or thumbs down after consulting a review.
“So basically, we’ve been using that [same system], but we just couldn’t get it changed before,” Showalter said. “I knew when I was right and when I was wrong when I was out there by the time I got out there and turned around.”
But Showalter said it won’t stop him from arguing calls late in games.
“I think where they miss the boat is just because you’re out of challenges, it doesn’t mean you can’t check replay,” Showalter said. “If it’s worth arguing, you can argue and maybe you can make a point and the umpires can go look at it. I think that’s the way it’s going to work.”
Also, teams will now have the option to show replays on the video boards at games, which Showalter said will add to the entertainment element of the game.
“I don’t want our fans to have to say, ‘Well, I’m going to stay home and watch the game because I can get something on TV that I can’t get at the ballpark,”’ he said. “It shouldn’t be that way. ... I think it’s going to be a part of the entertainment. When I see a guy catch a pass on the sideline [in football], it’s always interesting to see if he made it or not. I also think the replay shows you how good the players are. You say, ‘[Wow], he stayed inbounds? He caught that ball?’ ”
Showalter said he isn’t fond of the idea that umpires will be able to place runners at certain bases when making replay rulings and can take their speed into play when doing so.
Also, since expanded replay will be tested during spring training, he said teams who broadcast more spring training games will have more opportunity to experience the system before the season. MASN will broadcast six Orioles spring training games this spring, while the New York Yankees will broadcast 16 spring training games on the YES Network. Last season, NESN showed 14 Boston Red Sox spring games.
“Let say there’s a team that doesn’t televise any of their spring training games,” Showalter said. “Then the only time they’re going to be able to try it out is on the road. ... You know me, I asked about it. We were 30 teams at 30 tables at the winter meetings, and I asked, ‘Let me get this right. Let’s say the Yankees and the Red Sox, they televise basically all of their spring training games, so you’re going to have a better chance of testing out replay at that park than your home park?’”
Despite that, Showalter said that expanded replay is a positive step forward.
“I’m looking forward to it,” Showalter said. “I want the players to decide the game. As a manager, you don’t want to get in their way. I think after a year or so, we’re going to wonder why in the world we waited so long.
“I think what it’s going to lead to eventually is balls and strikes. That may not be in my baseball lifetime, but I think they’re eventually going to say, ‘Wow, this is pretty good.’ ”Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun