AP Exclusive: Umps may soon take to mic to explain replays
Adrian Gonzalez dives headfirst into home, seems to beat the tag by Cubs catcher Willson Contreras, but is called out. “Safe!” shout fans at Dodger Stadium who see replays on the board.
Umpires go to their headsets for a video review, and nearly three minutes later, the signal comes: Out!
Want to hear exactly how disputed calls get decided, like that one in last year’s NL Championship Series?
Soon, we might.
While nothing is set, Major League Baseball and umps are expected to discuss a plan — most prominently used in the NFL — for crew chiefs to wear a microphone and explain replay rulings.
Under one possible scenario, they would start at the All-Star Game on July 11 in Miami, tweak the process over the season’s second half and then go forward with the experiment in the playoffs.
People familiar with the talks spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because an agreement has not yet been reached.
Last year, MLB asked for the plate ump to wear a mic at the All-Star Game, but there wasn’t enough time to do it.
The umpires are in the middle of their five-year labor deal and any change would involve negotiations, plus a comfort level on both sides that the system would be efficient, accurate and easy.
So no way to say for sure if fans at Camden Yards, Coors Field and ballparks across the majors will become familiar with the voices of veteran crew chiefs — be it country singer Joe West, ordained minister Ted Barrett or Dale Scott, once a Top 40 AM radio disc jockey.
“It would probably leave us scratching our heads less on some of them where we think the call is this and it’s not,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “I’m sure we’re not always going to get the answers we want, but I don’t necessarily think it’s a bad idea.”
Marlins reliever Brad Ziegler agrees that it might be nice to get an explanation on a call.
“They’re supposed to say the call stands or the call’s confirmed,” he said. ”‘The call stands’ means you can’t tell. A lot of times we don’t get that ... they just signal out or safe. That’s all we get on the field.
“They may announce it on the PA, but it doesn’t seem like that is consistent in all parks. And the acoustics in the stadium here — we have a hard time hearing what’s on the PA in the bullpen.”
In the NFL, hearing refs announce “upon further review” has long been part of the lexicon. The lore includes what Ben Dreith said in a 1986 game, when Jets lineman Marty Lyons tangled with Buffalo quarterback Jim Kelly and was penalized for “giving him the business down there.”
The NHL for some time has mic’ed up officials to explain coach’s challenges, based on what the central replay booth tells them.
NBA crew chiefs put on headsets to watch reviews and talk with the replay center. Decisions are explained to the official scorer’s table and the benches, and the public address announcers inform the crowd.
MLB has tried to speed up reviews this year, aiming for the umpires in the New York replay booth to relay the final calls to the field in under 2 minutes.
“It’ll take more time,” Boston pitcher David Price said. “It’s not going to make them any shorter.”
As for making the replay system more informative and entertaining, “Yeah, until they have a problem with the umpire’s mic,” he said.
Marlins star Christian Yelich said a switch wouldn’t affect him.
“The call’s the call,” he said. “Just because they tell you what they decided isn’t going to change it.”
But Girardi, for one, would like to get an explanation.
“We’re not allowed to argue whatever the call is because the umpire that makes the call is not there. I’ve sometimes wanted to go on the headset,” he said, laughing.
AP Baseball Writer Ronald Blum, AP Sports Writer Steven Wine and AP freelance writer Ken Powtak contributed to this report.