Twins manager Ron Gardenhire has been asking for a “red flag” for a few years. Now that he’s getting one — metaphorically, anyway — he admits he hopes baseball eventually takes it away.
Major League Baseball intends to implement instant replay to double-check umpires’ decisions, starting next year, Commissioner Bud Selig announced Thursday in Cooperstown, N.Y. The system will include three challenges for managers to utilize during a game, one during the first six innings, and two for the seventh inning or later.
That’s similar to the three-challenge system used in the NFL, though baseball’s won’t include throwing a red flag, as Gardenhire has lobbied for. When a manager decides to challenge an umpire’s call, he’ll notify the crew chief verbally, and umpires monitoring the game from MLB headquarters in New York will uphold or overturn the call.
“I can’t tell you exactly if it’s going to work or not,” said Twins General Manager Terry Ryan, who for several years has been a member of Selig’s committee examining on-field issues like replay. “But let’s try. We’ve got the technology.”
The plan was presented to owners at a two-day meeting in Cooperstown and must be approved by 75 percent of owners at their next meeting in November in Orlando. The idea of overturning blown calls was popular among players on Thursday.
“I’m all for getting calls right. That’s a good thing,” said Joe Mauer, the victim of one of the more memorable missed calls in Twins history — he hit what replays showed should have been an 11th-inning ground-rule double in the 2009 AL Division Series in New York but was incorrectly ruled a foul ball by umpire Phil Cuzzi. “I haven’t seen the changes that are going to be made, so I don’t have an opinion on that, but to make the game better, that’s what we’re all striving for.”
Some worry that frequent challenges will slow down games that already are dragging, “but getting the call right is more important. I think everyone in here just wants the call to be right,” third baseman Trevor Plouffe said. “The game is focused on integrity right now, making sure all the rules are followed, and this is another example.”
Replay challenges won’t be allowed for balls and strikes, and certain other plays, such as hit batters, according to Atlanta Braves General Manager John Schuerholz, a member of the replay committee, along with former managers Tony La Russa and Joe Torre. And Ryan acknowledged that baseball understands there will still be unforeseen problems with the new system; plays where baserunners act in response to a missed call figure to be the most vexing.
“Where you place baserunners, that’s going to be touchy. That was the biggest issue — you can’t just assume [a runner] would have been here. Is the runner Billy Butler or Ben Revere?” Ryan said. “You can’t anticipate every situation that might come up.”
Especially since baseball is adding a new element — the manager challenges. The limits mean a manager must calculate how confident he is that a call was missed, and whether the time is right to use one (though a team won’t be charged for a challenge if it’s upheld by replay).
“If you’ve already thrown your flags in the seventh inning, and they missed a call in the ninth, it won’t help you,” Gardenhire said. “If you limit what you can challenge, and you happened to be in one of those ballgames where it doesn’t seem like anything’s going right for anybody, it can make a difference. You’ll run out of flags.”
That’s why Gardenhire hopes baseball eventually adopts a simpler system, one in which an umpire is constantly viewing the game on monitors and interrupts when he sees an umpire error.
“I’ve said all along that they should have a guy up in the booth, he has a replay right in front of him, and he signals yes or not. I’ve always thought that’s the quickest way to do it,” Gardenhire said. “That would be fine. Leave me in the dugout, that’d be great. I wouldn’t ever have to go out on the field.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.