NEW YORK, N.Y. - Major League Baseball appears set for a vast expansion of video review by umpires in 2014 and is examining whether all calls other than balls and strikes should be subject to instant replay.
Replay has been in place for home run calls since August 2008. Commissioner Bud Selig initially wanted to add trap plays and fair/foul calls down the lines for 2013, but change was put off while more radical options were examined.
"My opinion has evolved," Selig said Thursday after MLB executive vice-president Joe Torre gave an update at a quarterly owners' meeting.
Torre hopes to have proposals by the Aug. 14-15 session in Cooperstown, N.Y.
Umpires are under heightened scrutiny following two wrong decisions last week. After initially failing to award Oakland's Adam Rosales a tying home run in the ninth inning at Cleveland on May 8, Angel Hernandez's umpiring crew reviewed video and still didn't award him the homer even though replays showed the ball clearly went over the fence.
The following day, umpire Fieldin Culbreth's crew allowed Houston manager Bo Porter to improperly switch relievers in the middle of an inning, leading to a two-game suspension for the crew chief.
"Have we had a bad week or so? Yeah," Torre said. "One was a rules thing; it had nothing to do with replay."
In tests last year at Yankee Stadium and Citi Field, MLB experimented with the Hawk-Eye animation system that is used to judge line calls in tennis and the TrackMan radar software used by the PGA Tour.
While initially assigned to a large "special committee for on-field matters" that Selig established in 2009, replay recommendations will now come from a subcommittee of three: Torre, former St. Louis manager Tony La Russa and Atlanta president John Schuerholz, who is chairing the group.
"There are a lot of hurdles," Torre said. "You could start replaying stuff from the first inning on and then time the game by your calendar. That would be crazy. We have a rhythm in this game that we certainly don't want to disrupt."
The group is examining whether to have replay officials in booths at ballparks or at a central location, and whether to have umpires wear headsets, as soccer officials do. Torre is against giving managers a challenge system, as NFL coaches have, but says opinion is split.
"Managers have to make enough decisions," he said. "We've tried to stay away from technology telling us what to do."
The NFL, NBA, NHL, some NCAA sports and major tennis tournaments all use a form of replay, and even FIFA and the English Premier have adopted goal-line technology.
Seattle's Eric Wedge opposes a challenge system, maintaining: "I'm in favour of the human element."
Yankees manager Joe Girardi favours a challenge system and said more replay would cut down on arguments and would help umpires, too.
"Years ago they made mistakes, but it wasn't shown to millions of people," he said. "I think it would take pressure off them because, bottom line, the call is going to be right."
Torre said his decision to examine a big expansion came after Jeff Nelson missed a call at second base in the second game of last year's AL championship series. Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano tagged Detroit's Omar Infante, and Nelson ruled him safe instead of calling an inning-ending out. Detroit stretched its lead from one run to three and went on to a 3-0 victory and a four-game sweep.
"That really caught my eye and caught my attention with the fact that there was more conversation about that instead of the game itself," Torre said. "There's no question we're considering much more than the trap play and fair/foul. But again, one of the decisions we have to make is how much of this do we want to do without really disrupting and putting people to sleep?"
Players seem to be generally in favour of more replay.
"I like the idea that it is 2013, and since there are things available, at least consider the idea of taking a look at them," Yankees All-Star outfielder Curtis Granderson said. "It is a very traditional sport, but a lot of these things weren't available back when the game was originated. But now that you do have the ability to slow it down, freeze it, this that and the other, it's definitely something to look into."
On other topics:
— Selig wouldn't discuss the investigation of players alleged to have received performance-enhancing drugs from a now-closed Florida anti-aging clinic other than to say the probe was ongoing.
— Selig said there was no news on Oakland's quest for a new ballpark in San Jose and the San Francisco Giants to give up their territorial rights there. Selig said the committee he appointed in March 2009 is still at work.
— Executive vice-president Rob Manfred is negotiating with the players' union over the possibility of starting an international draft in 2014. Management has until June 1 to inform the union it intends to begin a world draft, and the union has until June 15 to reject it.
— While average attendance through May 15 declined 3.1 per cent, from 29,740 to 28,823, Selig blamed the decrease on weather that was "really bad, painfully bad" and said "I'm not overly concerned." MLB has had 21 weather-related postponements, matching the total for all of last season.
— Selig said an international opener is possible for 2014. Australian baseball officials have expressed interest.
— While the pension plan for non-uniformed employees was discussed, no action was taken. MLB has considered eliminating its league-wide plan and allowing teams to make individual decisions.