Why MLB Will Not Expand Instant Replay for 2012 Season

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Why MLB Will Not Expand Instant Replay for 2012 Season
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Though MLB Commissioner Bud Selig, owners and players were able to agree on a quick-fix expanded postseason for 2012, baseball was unable to finalize a deal that would have expanded instant replay review in time for Opening Day next month.

In late 2011, MLB's owners and the players' union had voted in favor of expanded instant replay, sending the proposal to the umpires' union for final approval earlier this year.

On March 1, the Umpire Ejection Fantasy League (UEFL) broke the news of expanded instant replay's failure for 2012, citing an anonymous source that had declared the ramifications of expanded replay were too complex to resolve in just a few short months.

On Tuesday, the Associated Press confirmed the report, featuring MLB executive vice president for labor relations Rob Manfred's summation: "We weren't able to come up with an acceptable set of agreements between the three parties, We hope we'll be able to do it in time for the 2013 season."

According to New York Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira, the deal might have fallen apart due to many extenuating circumstances and questions left to be answered. Teixeira voiced his support in delaying the move: "If they don't have it ready, I'd like for them to hold back."

For a glimpse as to what might not have been ready, consider that the expanded replay proposal for 2012 included a provision to review and potentially overturn fair vs. foul calls on balls in play—in other words, a screaming liner down the line.

Though overturning a called fair ball to foul might prove no challenge, the reverse seems to have remained a thorn in baseball officials' sides: With a runner on first, what of the streaking grounder that is ruled foul as it passes first base, only to be declared fair upon further review?

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With that runner and all defensive players stopping on the umpire's call of "foul ball," officials' biggest concern appears to be how to equitably place runners and the batter after a foul-to-fair overturn.

Expanded replay would also have included the catch vs. trapped ball call, and similar arguments can be made regarding outs recorded and runner placement in the event of a catch-to-trap overturn, or vice versa.

According to additional anonymous sources, umpires were concerned with the unequal quality of television feeds across the major leagues: For instance, umpires expected to receive much clearer images and more television angles at Yankee Stadium than they would in Oakland.

Similarly, MLB was unable to determine whether or not to implement a coach's challenge format—as is presently employed in football—nor did baseball decide whether to take the review process away from on-field umpire crew chiefs and make all decisions from an NHL-esque War Room in New York.

According to an Aug. 2011 UEFL poll, 36 percent of respondents favored fair vs. foul replay, 30 percent supported catch vs. trap and 68 percent supported home runs and fair ball spectator interference calls. Current MLB rules allow for home run and fair fly ball spectator interference review.

22 percent additionally favored a challenge system while 20 percent believed only officials should have the ability to decide when to use replay.

12 percent supported MLB's current format of having a crew chief leave the field to review and create a replay decision, 28 percent suggested MLB hire and assign a fifth official to each crew specifically for conducting reviews—similar to NCAA football—and 15 percent were in favor of adopting hockey's War Room model.

 

Gil Imber is Bleacher Report's Rules Featured Columnist and owner of The Umpire Ejection Fantasy League, a website that tracks umpires and umpiring statistics, with our flagship feature, tracking MLB umpire ejections.

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