Owners updated on potential expansion of replay
Torre says committee weighing processes and inclusion of wide array of calls
NEW YORK -- Joe Torre, Major League Baseball's executive vice president of baseball operations, hadn't originally planned on making a presentation about expanded instant replay at the quarterly Owners Meetings on Thursday. But he changed his mind.
"We did this in hopes that maybe by the next Owners Meeting [in Cooperstown, N.Y., in August], we can do more suggesting as opposed to just updating," Torre explained.
Torre, who made the presentation along with fellow committee members Tony La Russa and John Schuerholz, said that using replay to judge balls and strikes is "off limits" but almost anything else is up for discussion.
"We presented to the owners just basically an update on what we're doing," Torre said. "We were asked about if we feel [expanded] replay will be in place by 2014. We're hopeful. But, again, we're not going to send something out there just to meet a deadline, as opposed to trying to get the best possible way to do this. We're talking about a lot of things. Does this make sense? Does this have a possibility to add to what we want to do? We don't want to do a knee-jerk thing because people are demanding it. We want to do what we feel, from our experience, makes sense."
There was a time when the goal was to increase the use of replay this season. That didn't happen, in part, Torre said, because the thinking about how replay should be used has changed from just fair-foul and trap plays to make even more situations reviewable.
Torre said his thinking started to shift while watching a postseason game at Yankee Stadium last year during which an incorrect call was made on a tag play involving second baseman Robinson Cano.
"It was missed," Torre said. "My umpire was on the move trying to make the call. That really caught my eye and caught my attention, that there was a lot more conversation about that than the game itself. That's a concern to me. So there's no question we're considering much more than the trap play and fair-foul."
And, of course, the greater the scope of replay, the more questions arise.
"I've been approached many times about, 'Why don't you just put a couple guys in the booth and that should solve it,'" Torre said. "Well, this past week, we had three umpires looking at a replay and unfortunately we got it wrong. So it's not always that easy. I watched a tag play at the plate in the White Sox-Minnesota game the other night and I still don't know if he was tagged. I couldn't swear one way or the other. And we had a lot of camera angles on that. It's not as easy as I thought it would be, because we're learning more and more."
Two calls were made last week that MLB later acknowledged were incorrect, and each one drew a great deal of attention: An apparent home run that was ruled a double despite replays that showed it was a homer, and a rules misinterpretation that allowed a relief pitcher to be replaced before he had faced a batter. Torre backed the men in blue.
"It's not an easy job," he said. "They have a lot of pressure on them going out there. I can tell you in my three years here, they care a great deal. I think people have a misconception of that, like they're just showing up at the ballpark and putting in their time. That's not true. Have we had a bad week? Yeah, but the one thing was a rules interpretation. It had nothing to do with replay."
Torre's committee is grappling with issues such as whether there should be a challenge system, whether the current system of having a video monitor under the stands should remain, or whether the process should involve a fifth umpire in the press box or in a centralized office.
"There are a lot of hurdles," Torre said. "We're just trying to do what makes sense for the game. You could start replaying stuff from the first inning on and time the game by your calendar. That could be crazy. We have a rhythm in this game that we don't want to disrupt. One of the decisions we want to make is how much of this do we want to do without really disrupting and putting people to sleep."
Commissioner Bud Selig, speaking to the media following the Meetings, praised the thoughtfulness of the presentation. He declined to predict whether more replay will become a reality by next season, saying that the more replay is studied, the more complicated it becomes putting it into practice.
"They've been hard at work," Selig said. "There's been a lot of work done. But I think it's fair to say there's a lot of work to be done. The more issues they raise, the more thoughtful [their report] is. So my opinion has evolved because of all the work they have done. Time will tell. I'm not going to make any time prediction. The more issues they raise, the more complex it becomes."
Cost is among the complexities, but the committee has not reached the point of considering it.
"It is there, but what we're doing is looking to see what can be a consistent way to do things," Torre said. "We have 15 games every day. There's a lot that technology has to support. So right now we're into what makes sense, and then when the cost factor becomes an issue, we'll deal with that."
The committee has a good grasp on what sort of technology it believes would translate well to baseball, but Torre pointed out that there's still a human element.
"Training is certainly necessary," he said. "Practice. That certainly has been discussed, and I think we're all on the same page, that we can't just throw something at somebody and say, 'Here, we're going to do this tomorrow.' We need to make sure we're prepared when we roll it out, and training is a part of it."
Paul Hagen is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.