Major League Baseball’s planned challenge system for controversial calls will not necessarily make games longer, according to Pirates president Frank Coonelly.
Cutting down long-winded arguments between managers and umpires is part and parcel to the replay system MLB unveiled earlier this month, likely to be implemented for the 2014 season. Home-plate umpires will have “quick communication” with the instant replay command center in New York City to review up to six manager’s challenges each game, Coonelly told Pirates Prospects in a one-on-one interview.
“They can see all the replays quickly, because they have all the technology in front of them, all the TV screens,” Coonelly said. “If the manager goes out and argues the call, you’ve lost your right to review it. Secondly, once the call is reviewed, and the decision is made, you cannot argue that.”
MLB executives underwent a three-year planning process to expand instant replay, which will make about 89 percent of previously wrong calls reviewable, Coonelly said. The Commissioner’s Office studied current replay systems like the NHL’s goal review as well as tennis’ and the NFL’s challenge systems.
Coonelly was a proponent of umpires reviewing calls in a state-of-the-art New York command center, rather than installing replay booth in all 30 ballparks, calling it “more effective and efficient.” He also revealed one proposed aspect of the system, yet to be finalized, that would allow replays to be shown on stadium scoreboards after a manager has challenged the call.
“Let’s stop this fallacy that if we put instant replay of a controversial call up on the board, it’s going to cause rioting with respect to the umpire,” Coonelly said. “[Fans are] frustrated when they know at home they could have seen a controversial play at second base 10 times on instant replay, yet they look up on the board and why is it not on the board?”
Other Replay Takeaways
— Coonelly specifically cited the Jerry Meals decision of 2011 as a play fans saw “on their TVs that they know that the call is wrong.” Reversing calls like that one, a play at home which caused the Pirates to lose the 19-inning game in Atlanta, has been a priority for the team’s front office.
“Let’s get it right,” Coonelly said. “Let’s stop frustrating our fans.”
— Much of Coonelly’s notion that the replay system will not increase game length centers around (1) reducing often-fruitless manager arguments with umpires and (2) each team gets only three challenges.
“I think it’s going to eliminate some, not all [arguments],” Coonelly said. “We do like managers getting hot and bothered and having some entertaining discussions with umpires.”
— The Pirates president supports the planned replay system. Coonelly has regularly communicated with Peter Woodfork, MLB’s Senior Vice President, Baseball Operations and a former employee of Coonelly’s in the Commissioner’s Office. Though Coonelly does not “want to overstate” how much influence he has had on the overall proposal, items he supported like the central command center were eventually adopted.
Manager Clint Hurdle has not yet looked at the replay rules in detail yet. “We’ve got an entire winter to work through it,” Hurdle said. The manager will talk to Coonelly and general manager Neal Huntington, as well as ask questions to Joe Torre, MLB’s Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations.
— MLB studied hundreds of close plays over “a relatively significant time period” while forming the replay plan. About 11 percent of the wrong calls will not be challengeable under the new system. Examples of non-reviewable calls: hit-by-pitches and ground balls that bounce over or near a base to move from fair to foul.
“We’ll get them done quickly, and we’ll eliminate some of the arguing that goes on and the delay that they take,” Coonelly said. “We want the games to be decided on the field based on player performance as opposed to based on a call that was missed.”
A proposal is only as interesting as its likelihood of becoming reality. Does Coonelly think MLB’s plan will become the rule of baseball in 2014?
“You never count your chickens before they’re hatched, but it’s gotten this far with very strong support internally,” Coonelly said. “And I believe that the umpires are supportive as well.
“At the end of the day, the umpires want to get the calls right too.”Tomorrow on Pirates Prospects: President Coonelly talks about PNC Park’s plans for the playoffs, where seat prices will go next season and what the plans are for the Pirates’ 2014 Major League payroll.