Spring training is about revival, hope renewed, a fresh start for all clubs; but history not so much.

That wasn't the case Monday, March 3rd, in the bottom of the 6th inning in a match-up between the Minnesota Twins and the Toronto Blue Jays.

Manager John Gibbons became the first manager to enact the instant replay rule requesting that an on the field call of “safe” to the runner on first be reviewed, and all spring training spectators that day got to witness history. Okay, so it wasn't the moon landing or Willie Mays’ basket catch, but this rule is real, and this week I’m here to give you the Lo Down on what it means for your future baseball viewing.

Just the Facts….

  • Voted and accepted on January 16, 2014
  • Inaugural launch will be during the 2014 championship season (aka “this season”)
  • Rules are an expansion of existing replay rules, est. 2008
  • All replays, challenged or not, are allowed to be played in ball parks (i.e. on the JumboTron)
  • Each manager has the ability to challenge at least 1 play per game
  • If challenge is successful, manager will retain the ability to challenge an additional play
  • A manager cannot challenge more than 2 plays per game
  • After the 7th inning all replay reviews must be enacted by the Umpire Crew Chief
  • Replay review will be executed offsite at the Replay Command Center (Live from New York City!)
  • Communication between the Umpire crew on the field and the Replay Command Center will be through a hardwired terminal near home plate (already established in all 30 MLB ball parks)

Rules that can be reviewed are:

  • Ground-rule doubles
  • Fan interference calls
  • Boundary calls (managers may not, however, challenge home run or potential home run calls)
  • Force plays at all bases, except whether a middle infielder touched second base during the attempt to "turn" a double-play
  • Tag plays on the base paths—whether a runner was tagged or whether the runner touched a base (an appeal is still required ahead of the latter)
  • Fair/foul calls on balls hit into the outfield
  • Catch/trap calls on balls hit into the outfield
  • Time plays (whether or not a run scored prior to the third out)
  • Whether a runner passed a preceding runner
  • Scorekeeping issues, including the count, number of outs, score or substitutions

You can’t do that on television…(items non-reviewable):

  • Balls and strikes
  • Obstruction
  • Interference
  • In-field fly
  • Check swings

I got tired of reading. What’s this all mean?

Well, basically everything (except for balls and strikes…including check swings) can be challenged by the manager up until the 7th inning. Each manager can challenge once, unless they’re proven to be right, then they can have seconds. Then from the 7th inning after the challenge-dessert bar is closed and baseball returns to a simpler time when managers have to kick and scream their way to a review.

It's already happening

Replay review started this spring training, and the very first review happened on March 3, 2014. Initiated by John Gibbons, involving players Chris Raul (OF, min) and Jared Goedert (1b, Tor) challenged a call made by umpire Fielden Culberth, #history … in case you ever need to know for that game of Bar Trivia (more details here.)

Both managers and umpires are confident in the system, as am I. If there are any issues baseball has a very extensive committee system that will address any issues but since this has been a slow development since the introduction in 2008 the implementation of the rule should be smooth. Crews and teams will need to get use to the process, but pretty soon this will become a fluid part of the game.

In the meantime teams are already preparing for chaos; most notably Joe Maddon of the Tampa Bay Rays has coined the term, “play for 4 outs”. However, for a game that still is subject to rain delays, its not surprising even replay can’t avoid the elements.

Tim Lo is a Bangor based entrepreneur, marketing and advertising professional, and sports fan; fair and objective, in-depth analysis for the educated sports fan with a dash of opinion.   

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