Instant replay probably won't happen instantly

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Joyce blown call small.jpgA day after the Jim Joyce call, one thing almost everyone agrees on — myself included — is that baseball needs to expand instant replay beyond the current boundary calls rule. The problem is that it’s not at all clear how to do it.

An issue is whether or not implementing replay is a matter that has to be negotiated with the players’ union in the context of collective bargaining. It’s actually kind of vague. Article XVIII of the CBA says that players must sign off on changes that significantly change the “terms of employment.”  Is replay one of those changes?  I’m not sure that it is. Maybe for umpires it is, but my sense is that it’s not for players.

The problem, though, is that the last time replay was brought up — when it was implemented for home run calls in the 2008 season — the union was consulted and did sign off.  Not as a part of collective bargaining, but in at least something approaching a formal process.  Add that to the fact that Selig has acted as though he’s not totally in charge of replay — he’s one of the most notorious buck-passers in baseball and has often spoken about getting everyone on board — and you can see why someone, maybe even Bud himself, would say that this is something that has to go slowly and involve the union.

I think it’s highly unlikely that the union would oppose replay — they don’t want to see their members lose perfect games either, you know — but I have a hard time seeing them pass up the opportunity to be involved, if for no other reason than to not appear to cede power to Selig.  I think they’ll be consulted and will operate as though they are a part of the process. As they probably should.

But if that happens, a key thing to watch is whether Bud and the MLBPA treat it informally and just let replay happen, or if they treat it like other big issues such as drug testing (i.e. a
“significant
change”) and actually do some quick supplemental bargaining on it.  If they do, Michael Weiner will have to, by the MLBPA’s own rules, take it to the Executive Committee for approval, and usually that takes
some
time.
Moreover, per the CBA, any rules changes like this wouldn’t come into play until next season.

But like I said, it may not come to that.  Bud — assuming he doesn’t completely blow this one and does nothing — will probably consult
with the MLBPA and negotiate at least in some way, shape of form. Whether that is formally, in a manner that would lead to a delayed implementation, or informally, in a way that would allow replay to happen quickly, depends on how much Bud wants to share credit and/or the blame for how the whole process works out.

Rob Manfred on robot umps: “In general, I would be a keep-the-human-element-in-the-game guy.”

KANSAS CITY, MO - APRIL 5:  Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred talks with media prior to a game between the New York Mets and Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium on April 5, 2016 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
Ed Zurga/Getty Images
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Craig covered the bulk of Rob Manfred’s quotes from earlier. The commissioner was asked about robot umpires and he’s not a fan. Via Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports:

Manfred was wrong to blame the player’s union’s “lack of cooperation” on proposed rule changes, but he’s right about robot umps and the strike zone. The obvious point is that robot umps cannot yet call balls and strikes with greater accuracy than umpires. Those strike zone Twitter accounts, such as this, are sometimes hilariously wrong. Even the strike zone graphics used on television are incorrect and unfortunate percentage of the time.

The first issue to consider about robot umps is taking jobs away from people. There are 99 umps and more in the minors. If robot umpiring was adopted in collegiate baseball, as well as the independent leagues, that’s even more umpires out of work. Is it worth it for an extra one or two percent improvement in accuracy?

Personally, the fallibility of the umpires adds more intrigue to baseball games. There’s strategy involved, as each umpire has tendencies which teams can strategize against. For instance, an umpire with a more generous-than-average strike zone on the outer portion of the plate might entice a pitcher to pepper that area with more sliders than he would otherwise throw. Hitters, knowing an umpire with a smaller strike zone is behind the dish, may take more pitches in an attempt to draw a walk. Or, knowing that information, a hitter may swing for the fences on a 3-0 pitch knowing the pitcher has to throw in a very specific area to guarantee a strike call or else give up a walk.

The umpires make their mistakes in random fashion, so it adds a chaotic, unpredictable element to the game as well. It feels bad when one of those calls goes against your team, but fans often forget the myriad calls that previously went in their teams’ favor. The mistakes will mostly even out in the end.

I haven’t had the opportunity to say this often, but Rob Manfred is right in this instance.

Report: MLB approves new rule allowing a dugout signal for an intentional walk

CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 29:  MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred laughs during a ceremony naming the 2016 winners of the Mariano Rivera American League Reliever of the Year Award and the Trevor Hoffman National League Reliever of the Year Award before Game Four of the 2016 World Series between the Chicago Cubs and the Cleveland Indians at Wrigley Field on October 29, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Elsa/Getty Images
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ESPN’s Howard Bryant is reporting that Major League Baseball has approved a rule allowing for a dugout signal for an intentional walk. In other words, baseball is allowing automatic intentional walks. Bryant adds that this rule will be effective for the 2017 season.

MLB has been trying, particularly this month, to improve the pace of play. Getting rid of the formality of throwing four pitches wide of the strike zone will save a minute or two for each intentional walk. There were 932 of them across 2,428 games last season, an average of one intentional walk every 2.6 games. It’s not the biggest improvement, but it’s something at least.

Earlier, Commissioner Rob Manfred was upset with the players’ union’s “lack of cooperation.” Perhaps his public criticism was the catalyst for getting this rule passed.

Unfortunately, getting rid of the intentional walk formality will eradicate the chance of seeing any more moments like this: