LOS ANGELES--It happens every year. The umpire blows a call, and every fan watching on television can see it. But baseball, bound by tradition and its embrace of the so-called "human element," shrugged and went on with the game, even if the blown call was the difference between victory and defeat. No more. For the first time -- and starting this season -- Major League Baseball will permit video review of just about every call an umpire can make beyond balls and strikes.
Question: How will this work?
Answer: Each manager can challenge one call per game. If the challenge is successful, the manager gets a second challenge. Baseball officials believe there are few truly egregious calls, and limiting a manager to one or two challenges forces him to use them wisely.
Q: What kind of plays are not subject to review?
A: In addition to balls and strikes, managers cannot challenge obstruction and interference calls. Also, the so-called "neighborhood play" will stand, with the second baseman or shortstop not strictly required to tag second base if he is vulnerable to a sliding runner.
Q: What if a manager has no challenges left in the ninth inning, and a horrible call might decide the game?
A: If a manager is out of challenges -- and if the game is in the seventh inning or later -- the umpires can call for video review.
Q: Who conducts the review and decides if conclusive evidence exists to overturn a call?
A: Umpires in a central viewing room in New York. The on-site umpires will not have access to video and will not leave the field.
Q: How much longer will games take?
A: Baseball officials hope to shorten games, with the idea that at least some of the lengthy arguments between managers and umpires can be pre-empted by a prompt video review. Each manager will have a direct phone line to a team video coordinator, who can review plays immediately and suggest which plays should be challenged.
Q: What might be the best part of this system?
A: For the first time, teams will be permitted to show replays of controversial or disputed calls on ballpark video boards -- even if the call is not submitted for review. Baseball officials decided paying fans at the ballpark should get to see a replay, just as a fan watching at home would. Only plays under review will be shown in slow motion.
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