PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. (AP) — Baseball's new guidelines regarding home plate collisions will be released on Monday.
MLB executive vice president Joe Torre made the revelation Sunday after wrapping up a series of meetings to discuss expanded replay with the 15 teams that conduct spring training in Florida. The former New York Yankees manager did not provide specifics about the plate-collision rule except to say baseball wants to curb intentional contact.
"There's a memo that's going to come out. It's pretty cut and dried at this point in time," Torre said. "If nothing else on that play, we want to eliminate those very vicious hits where you target the catcher as opposed to home plate."
Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon said there doesn't appear a radical change to existing guidelines, noting catchers still will be able to block the plate if the ball arrives in time. "The general spirit of it is you don't want a collision intentionally initiated by the base runner. That's what it sounds like to me," Maddon said.
Home plate collisions also will be subject to review, however they won't cost a manager a challenge under the new system. "It's going to cost you a challenge if you're challenging safe or out. But if it's the collision part of it, if it's going to be a violation, then that is going to be looked at the same as the home run (replay). ... The only thing different is the (umpires) are not going to leave the field, you're going to get everything from New York," Torre said.
Torre is optimistic the new replay system that debuts this season will function as intended, helping umpires get potential game-changing calls correct while not disrupting the rhythm of play with lengthy delays.
Torre is headed Monday to Arizona, where he'll spend two days explaining expanded replay to managers and other staff members of the 15 clubs preparing for the season there. "For the most part, the reception from all the clubs has been very positive, which makes us happy," Torre said after a three-hour meeting with representatives from the Rays, Minnesota Twins, Boston Red Sox, Baltimore Orioles and Pittsburgh Pirates.
"The umpires are all-in on this. ... They don't like to be written about or to look at TV that night and see how they missed a play," Torre added. "They don't want that, so they're all-in on this stuff."
Ball and strikes, force outs at second base — the so-called "neighborhood play" — and situations involving base runners who tag up before advancing are among the plays that managers will not be able to challenge under the new system.
The new rules allow each team to challenge one call a game. If the manager wins the first one, he'll earn another challenge. The crew chief can request a review after the seventh inning if the manager has used his challenges.
"There have been some questions, there have been some suggestions," from managers in Florida, Torre said, adding that the changes made in the system for this season are a starting point. "There are going to be calls that are missed. If we concerned ourselves with getting every single play right, the game would never end," Torre said. "We gave it a lot of thought, a lot of conversation and a lot of meetings. We figured this is the best way to start this thing, and we'll see."
Baseball became the last major professional sport in North America to implement replay late in the 2008 season, however it has been very narrowly used. Under the new system, umpires will not leave the field during replays, instead communicating by headset with current MLB umpires at the replay center in New York, where challenged calls will be settled.
Torre expects most challenges will be resolved within 60 to 90 seconds. "Hopefully, we're not going to disrupt the game," Torre said. "We're going to remind everybody that pace of game is very important."
He said it's also important that players not get caught up with changes in the system. "Players can't concern themselves with replay. They've got to play the game the way they normally play it," Torre said. "Replay is a strategy for the manager, and just let it be that. It's tough enough to play the game without trying to factor that part in."