After years of downplaying the potential of instant replay, Bud Selig -- with the assistance of Tony La Russa, John Schuerholz and Joe Torre -- announced a rather radical version of it on Thursday afternoon.
The good news: Its reach is wider than one might think for a first draft.
The bad news: It involves manager challenges.
Well, perhaps I should outline the plan in case you haven't heard about it yet. That way you can make up your own mind.
*Managers will be allowed one challenge through the first six innings, and two more from the seventh inning through the ninth. If he wins the challenge, he retains the challenge, although only for the challenge's designated innings. A successful challenge during the first half of the game would not carry over to the last three innings, for instance.
*Schuerholz said replay would cover 89 percent of incorrect calls made in the past. The official list of plays hasn't been finalized, but HBPs and strike/ball calls aren't included.
*Once the challenge is issued, the home-plate umpire or crew chief will have a way to contact MLB Advanced Media from the field. An umpire in the video room will then make the call. Schuerholz said they anticipate these replays would take one minute and 15 seconds, instead of the three minutes replays take now.
This isn't the worst plan on its face. For instance, "89 percent" covers a lot more than I figured the first real effort at expanded replay might, and I like that the umpire wouldn't have to retreat to a room to watch it himself, but instead can get a ruling from somebody who is (hopefully) one step ahead of the call and already reviewing the play.
But I'm highly skeptical of a challenge system, especially one that backloads challenges for the last three innings. That makes the plan seem less about getting the calls right, and more about managers 1) figuring out how to use them correctly, and 2) figuring out if there are loopholes that can be exploited to draw out game and throw opponents off.
Basically, it looks like a plan that had La Russa's input.
For the White Sox, whose pitchers prioritize a brisk pace, this could be a problem:
"I like to get the ball and go, and any time there's something that could pick up a rhythm you might find or groove that you're in, it could take away from that.'' [Chris Sale] said.
When Robin Ventura was asked about managers having to force the issue, he deadpanned, "I'll be challenging every game. All game. Use 'em all." While Ventura was joking, I can see a guy like Joe Maddon burning two challenges in every game the Rays trail late, and unabashedly. Routine groundout that gets the runner by two steps? Well, maybe it looked like the first baseman came off the bag early! And every late-inning 4-6-3 could get a thorough "neighborhood play" inspection.
I guess we should see if safeguards are implemented to smack down frivolous challenges, although anything that gives Angel Hernandez the right of refusal is a dangerous weapon.
Ron Gardenhire's preference would be the approach I've seen advocated the most:
"I've said all along they should have a guy in the booth with a replay set right in front of him and he signals yes or no," said Twins manager Ron Gardenhire. "I've always thought that's the quickest way to do it."
And it makes sense to me, considering viewers at home can usually determine the call within 15 to 30 seconds. But Rob Neyer goes through some potential consequences of that system, and says if were that simple, they would've done it already. He has a point -- if he's not giving MLB too much credit, that is -- but I'd still prefer a system that tasks umpires with getting the call correct, whether it's in the moment or the second time around.
That responsibility shouldn't fall on a manager, especially one who is also suddenly implored to consider the last three innings more important than the first six (even Maddon doesn't like that).
Hell, late-inning managing is already difficult enough. Over the last three days, we've seen Ventura, Gardenhire and Jim Leyland call for the sacrifice bunt four times in such situations. It only paid off once, and that was because Jeremy Bonderman refused to take the easy out. I'd like to see them become more efficient with tactics that are as old as the game before adding lawyering to their to-do list.