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Instant Replay Arrives. Here’s a Recap of How it Came to Be PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Maury Brown   
Friday, 29 August 2008 07:37
MLBDirect telephone lines and hi-def video displays are in place at all 30 ballparks in MLB. In New York, the control room at MLB Advanced Media for sending video feeds upon request is staffed and at the ready.

Yes, Thursday, instant replay was officially instituted in Major League Baseball.

How did it all come about? Here are the milestones leading up to the historic change:

Friday, Oct. 12, 2007: During Game Two of the NLCS, Commissioner Selig said he would allow general managers to give input on the possible use of instant replay. Selig outlined why he was not in favor of it:

"I don't like instant replay because I don't like all the delays. I think it sometimes creates as many problems, or more, than it solves. But I am willing to say we'll at least talk about this if people want to talk about it. I'm going to let the general managers discuss it, let them come back and make recommendations. No, I'm not a big advocate of instant replay."

Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2007: In a non-binding, 25-5 vote at the general managers’ meetings in Orlando, Florida, the 30 MLB GMs voted in favor of using instant replay for “boundary calls” for potential home runs–whether the ball was fair or foul, confirmation of balls which may have gone over the fence or may have hit the top and bounced back, and whether fans interfered with possible homers. About Selig’s previous concerns of instant replay delaying the game, MLB executive VP Jimmie Solomon said, "He seemed to be softer, at least on the consideration of the subject."

Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2007: With the owners meetings set to kick off, MLB COO Bob DuPuy announced that the owners aren’t set to vote for the approval of instant replay:

"I don't think it will come up. The general managers took an advisory vote. Nothing's been sent on to the commissioner, yet. When he gets it, I'm confident he will look at it and decide what the next steps are to take. But there will be no action. There's no action to take." 

Friday, May 23, 2008: After a series of incorrect calls, talk of instant replay intensified with the Arizona Fall League or the 2009 WBC considered for testing of the system.

“I’ve had conversations with the commissioner about it and I know he’s giving it a lot of thought and consideration and doing a lot of work on it. Commissioner Selig is getting a lot more information and will know the pros and cons,” Seattle Mariners president Chuck Armstrong said.

“I think it’s certainly something that bears exploring and I look forward to hearing the results,” he added. “You have those things that happened this week in Houston or Yankee Stadium and those things just should not happen.”

Wednesday, Aug. 13, 2008: At the quarterly owners’ meetings, the topic of beginning instant replay before the end of the 2009 season is discussed.

"There's not any opposition to it that I've heard," DuPuy said.

On getting the system ramped up so quickly, DuPuy downplays the matter.

"We don't need a lot of lead-up," DuPuy said. "What we need is stuff installed, and what we need is people to make sure it's going to work, and what we need is for the umpires to understand the protocol. What we need is to make sure that everyone who's participating understands it."

Tuesday, Aug. 19, 2008: With MLB pushing forward on getting instant replay in place before the end of the month, the World Umpires Association promptly cancelled a Wednesday conference call with management, angry that their concerns are not being met. World Umpires Association spokesman Lamell McMorris said, “A lot of the procedural issues necessary for instant replay to be implemented need to be worked out.”

“I’m not going to go through these one by one. I will tell you that on a number of them, the comments are simply not accurate,” responded Rob Manfred, MLB’s executive vice president for labor relations.

Wednesday, Aug. 20, 2008: Only hours after the World Umpires Association boycotts a conference call on instant replay, the union representing them announced that they have reached an agreement on instant replay. Manfred said, "We reached an agreement. Final decision with respect to moving ahead has not been made yet, but we have an agreement with the umpires.”

The umpires made it clear that while they’ve signed off on instant replay, they don’t see the system as perfect. "We're going to move forward with the understanding the sides will come to the table later and iron out some of the remaining issues," said McMorris, who the day before criticized management. "Instant replay will be a work in progress."

Wednesday, Aug. 27, 2008: The final negotiated hurdle is cleared as the MLBPA reached an agreement with management on instant replay. The deal is through 2008, including the playoffs and the World Series. After the World Series, the MLBPA may request further bargaining over instant replay for 2009 and beyond by notifying to the Commissioner's Office by December 10. If further bargaining is not requested, the agreement will remain in effect for the balance of the current Basic Agreement which runs through the 2011 season.

MLBPA Executive Director, Donald Fehr, stated, “We are pleased that we were able to reach this agreement. Following the World Series, the players will review the matter, and then determine what course to take for the future. While the use of instant replay is an experiment, we hope that over the balance of this season it will prove to be a success."

Wednesday, Aug. 27, 2008: After the announcement by the MLBPA, the Commissioner’s Office announced plans to institute limited instant replay for boundary calls the following day, Thursday, August 28, 2008. Selig, once opposed to instant replay, stood behind the change: "I believe that the extraordinary technology that we now have merits the use of instant replay on a very limited basis. The system we have in place will ensure that the proper call is made on home run balls and will not cause a significant delay to the game."

Thursday, Aug. 28, 2008: The first day in which instant replay rules are in effect sees three series begin where the instant replay review may be put to use. The games feature the Minnesota Twins at the Oakland Athletics, the Texas Rangers at the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, and the Philadelphia Phillies at the Chicago Cubs. During the course of these games, 5 home runs are hit, none of which require use of the instant replay system.

Friday, Aug. 29, 2008: The use of instant replay is instituted across all MLB games and will remain so for all remaining regular season and post season MLB games.

Maury Brown

Maury Brown is the Founder and President of the Business of Sports Network, which includes The Biz of Baseball, The Biz of Football, The Biz of Basketball and The Biz of Hockey. He is contributor to Baseball Prospectus, and is available as a freelance writer.

Brown's full bio is here. He looks forward to your comments via email and can be contacted through the Business of Sports Network.

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