In December, when the memorandum of understanding on MLB’s new labor agreement was announced, a key provision announced under the category of “other” was this:
Instant Replay will be expanded to include fair/foul and “trapped” ball plays, subject to the Office of the Commissioner’s discussions with the World Umpires Association.
Whether the press didn’t read this, ignored it, or didn’t understand it, Commissioner Selig and the league has been pounded for not implementing it yet.
Going back to that provision, the MLBPA had signed off, MLB had signed off, the World Umpires Association had not.
For some reason this week, when Selig reiterated that he was in favor of bringing expanded instant replay into the game, the media pounced. Whether it was because Selig said it on "The Mike Lupica Show" on ESPN New York, or the fact that here we with just over a third left in the season, the league and Selig have been seen as dragging their feet.
"We're now going to add it on trapped balls in the outfield and as I call them bullets down the right and left field line," Selig said.
This is nothing new. It’s in the contract with the umpires. It’s endorsed by the league. It’s endorsed by the union for the players.
Where fans and the press get crossed up is when Selig seems to send mixed messages. When he addressed the BBWAA at the All-Star Game this year, the commissioner said, "We've been through this lot, we're going to expand instant replay when we have the technology to do that," Selig said. "We will review it. Baseball is a game of pace, you can't compare it to anything else. We have to be careful how we proceed.''
So, if there’s a failing from Selig it’s a matter of total clarity. Writers, so wholly used to hearing Selig talk about addressing matters at a pace that isn’t exactly the quickest (ahem, the A’s relocation issue), have been programmed to latch onto anything that seems to point to waffling. In this case, it’s the sentence, “We have to be careful how we proceed.''
Here’s what I would expect: expanded instant replay could be as early as this postseason, and if not then, in place by the beginning of the 2013 regular season. It impacts the umpires. It’s something that, while needed, is always going to be hotly debated by purists of the game. But, at least it’s coming. When ESPN runs it on radio, don’t act like it’s something new. After all, it was announced last December.
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 writes for Baseball Prospectus and is a contributor to Forbes.He 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 (select his name in the dropdown provided).
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