For the moment, the expansion of the use of instant replay in Major League games is on hold.
That, however, could change in an instant — or by the All-Star Break.
With the baseball season ready to open in North America next week, commissioner Bud Selig said he remains optimistic that the use of instant replay on foul balls and trapped balls in the outfield can be instituted during the season.
During the offseason, representatives of Major League Baseball, the Major League Baseball Players Association, and the World Umpires Association worked out details to add a second wild-card to baseball’s postseason, allow teams to add a 26th player for a doubleheader that is scheduled in advance and to require a pitcher who warms up on the mound between innings to face at least one batter before he can be relieved.
Both sides indicated support of expanding instant replay, currently used on disputed calls involving potential home runs, but the details of how to handle more replays were not worked out. At the time, the indication was that additional usage of replay would have to wait until the 2013 season because of concern about an in-season rules change.
Selig, however, said that is no longer a concern.
"It was a practical matter," Selig said of the delay on the expanded use of replays . "I think we are going to get it done on balls hit down the first and third base lines, and balls trapped in the outfield. (Manager) Mike Scioscia of the Angels is always talking about trapped balls.
"I hope we can get it done before this year is over. They are working on it now."
Selig said the plan is to use equipment of Baseball Advanced Media in New York.
The addition of a second wild-card is the most dramatic adjustment. The postseason will now begin with a one-game playoff between the wild cards from each league.
"Personally I like two-out-of-three, although I worry about the time parameters of the playoffs and getting into November," Selig said. "But we have a special 14-man committee (to look at ways to improve the game). Much to my surprise the four managers on the committee, Joe Torre, Mike Scioscia, Tony La Russa and Jim Leyland, all wanted the one-game playoff. I had the four managers to talk to all the other managers and everyone liked the one-game format, as did the whole 14-member committee, including Frank Robinson and George Will.
"One of the criticisms I always accepted as somewhat valid is the team that wins the division doesn’t get enough for it. Now the wild-cards will have a sudden-death playoff. That will be a great lead into the postseason."
The change will put a pressure on the wild-cards. While the six division champions are each getting an extra day to get their pitching staffs in order for the Division Series, the four wild-card teams will be facing a must-win game.
"There’s no question, they might have to use their best pitcher in that one-game so they can advance," Selig said. "It adds a premium to winning the division."
In addition to the four managers, Seig’s 14-man committee includes front office executives John Schuerholz, Terry Ryan, Mark Shapiro and Andy MacPhail, ownership representatives Dave Montgomery, Bill DeWitt, Paul Beeston and Chuck Armstrong, Major League Baseball consultant Frank Robinson, and columnist George Will.
The expansion of the roster for a doubleheader will not impact a makeup doubleheader that is scheduled the day after a postponement because of concerns that one team could have a competitive advantage in being able to transport a player from a minor league team to the city of the big-league game.
For other doubleheaders teams will be allowed to add a player, most likely a pitcher to ease the workload of a major-league team’s pitching staff.
The rule requiring a pitcher to face the first batter in any inning in which the pitcher warms up part of the continuing effort to speed up games. It eliminates a manager stalling for time while he warms up a reliever in the bullpen, although if the opposing team sends up a pinch-hitter, a pitching change could be made.
An instance from last year that would now be illegal was when Sam Fuld pinch-hit for Tampa Bay pitcher J.P. Howell, and then went out to warm up for the bottom of the eighth so that Rays manager Joe Maddon could buy time to get a reliever loose.
"I am really determined to continue to try and speed the game up," Selig said. "We have gotten a little bit better. There are still things we can do to get the 2:51 average to 2:40."
That is something that remains on Selig’s to-do list.
If things go according to his plan, the list will be reduced by one item — expanded use of instant replays — before long.