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PHOENIX – The use of expanded instant replay promises to bring significant change to Major League Baseball. Right now, all it brings is mystery for managers who are wondering how best to use it in challenging a controversial umpire’s call.
Oakland A’s manager Bob Melvin will join the other Cactus League skippers in a “workshop” Monday that will aim to clarify instant replay rules. Teams will get to experiment with replay challenges in select spring training games, an important testing ground for teams to develop a strategy for when and how to challenge.
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Owners voted in expanded replay in January, opening it up so that tag plays, force plays and trap calls will now be subject to review, as will other scenarios. Managers will get one challenge per game, but if they correctly get a call overturned through replay, they receive another challenge. From the seventh inning on, umpires will have the right to ask for a replay review if a manager is out of challenges himself.
More than anything, Melvin wants to know how much time he’ll have to communicate with someone watching video in the clubhouse to decide whether a challenge is worth it.
“The thing for me is the clarification time,” Melvin said. “That’s gonna be the key. Whether it’s in spring training or during the season, if you have time for clarification, you have a chance to get more right.”
A hotline will be installed in every dugout for managers to communicate with a “video specialist” back in the clubhouse. The A’s have yet to hold internal meetings on how to handle in-game replay decisions. Those meetings will likely come after Monday’s workshop better spells out the specifics.
Regardless, expanded use of replay is a radical wrinkle to the national pastime, and it places an extra layer of decision-making in a manager’s hands.
A manager must decide to challenge a play before the pitcher and batter “are ready to go” for the next pitch, MLB executive vice president Joe Torre has said. But that leaves lots of gray area for teams to stall for more time as they decide whether to challenge a call.
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Managers figure to get more concrete insight Monday.
“It’s going to be a work in progress from a logistical standpoint and a strategic standpoint,” A’s general manager Billy Beane said. “But when terms get ironed out everyone will benefit. Not just teams, but fans as well, and the umpires. It’s a work in progress, but one in which we’re gonna have to have some pretty solid framework because the season’s starting (soon).”
Major League Baseball plans to modify the replay procedures over a three-year period, assuming it will take multiple seasons to iron out all the potential problems.