PARADISE VALLEY, Ariz. — Major League Baseball will greatly expand instant replay to review close calls starting this season.
MLB announced Thursday that owners, players and umpires have approved the new system.
Each manager will be allowed to challenge at least one call per game. If he’s right, he gets another challenge. After the seventh inning, a crew chief can request a review on his own if the manager has used his challenges.
The so-called “neighborhood play” at second base on double plays cannot be challenged. Many had safety concerns for middle infielders being wiped out by hard-charging runners if the phantom force was subject to review.
“I tell you the fans will love it,” baseball Commisioner Bud Selig said after owners met and voted their unanimous approval. “It’s another in a long list of changes that will make this sport better than it already is.”
All reviews will be done by current MLB umpires at a replay center in MLB.com’s New York office. To create a large enough staff, MLB agreed to hire six new big league umpires and call up two minor league umps for the entire season. A seventh major league umpire will be added to replace the late Wally Bell.
Joe Torre, MLB’s executive vice president of baseball operations, said work continues on a proposed rule that would ban home-plate collisions between runners and the catcher. The rule has not been written and talks on its content are ongoing between MLB representatives and the players union, he said.
Baseball was the last major pro sport in North America to institute replay when it began late in the 2008 season. Even then, it was only used for close calls on home runs.
The NFL, NBA, NHL, some NCAA sports and major tennis tournaments all use a form of replay, and even FIFA and the English Premier League have adopted goal-line technology for soccer.
“I think it’s great,” San Francisco Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. “It’s about getting it right, and with our technology today we can do that in a way I don’t think we will interrupt the flow of the game.”
To make baseball reviews uniform, cameras will transit 12 angles from each ballpark. MLB Chief Operating Officer Rob Manfred said it was uncertain whether the replay system will be in place in Australia for the season-opening series between the Arizona Diamondbacks and Los Angeles Dodgers.
“For some, the discussions regarding expanded replay appeared to move too slowly, too deliberately,” said Brian Lam, the lawyer for the World Umpires Association. “But there were technical and operational challenges that needed to be addressed, and that took time. ith so many competing interests and opinions, it is unlikely that all will be completely pleased at the end of the day, but that’s often the nature of things.”
Selig said the replay expansion ranks “very, very high” when compared with other moves made during his time on the job.
The new rule allows ballparks to show fans the same replays on stadium video screens. But only plays under review can be shown on the screen in slow motion.