JUPITER, Fla. • Former Cardinals managers Tony La Russa and Joe Torre are spending some of their time these days writing their Hall of Fame speech for their induction ceremonies in July.
In between, they are part of a whirlwind Major League Baseball tour through Florida and Arizona spring training camps to discuss with teams and answer their questions about the expanded replay system to be employed this season.
Torre, the executive vice president for baseball operations, said here Thursday, “We’re going through it and thinking of everything that could go wrong. That’s the only way you can put something together.”
Before the MLB officials met with the Cardinals and New York Mets’ staffs here, La Russa, who is a special consultant to MLB and the commissioner’s office, said he thought the concern about the game being slowed would not be realized.
“In a classic case, it will speed it up,” La Russa said. “Instead of a long argument, you can go out and challenge and have your answer within a minute. In a normal challenge play, you’ll get an answer within 10 to 20 seconds.”
According to La Russa and Torre, MLB statistics say that an umpiring call is missed every six games. To allay that, Torre said the new system calls for two rotating crews of umpires, eight in total, to work in New York and be part of the technological process that passes along a verdict on a challenge to the crew chief at the park. Each umpire in the New York studios will be responsible for monitoring two games on a given day.
Torre said each ballpark’s video system will be altered so that each team’s clubhouse will be equipped with the necessary technology to review the data from nine to 12 camera angles and managers quickly can be informed as to whether to challenge.
Each manager will be allowed one challenge and if it is successful, as Torre and La Russa suggested it would be with the technology involved, he would get another. If a manager is out of challenges, his recourse is that the umpires can ask for a review of any play after the fifth inning.
Torre and La Russa are instructing clubs to make “timely challenges,” i.e., not dragging on an argument with an umpire for more than a minute or so. La Russa also stresses the need to challenge “impactful plays,” rather than something not so significant.
“The key thing I tell (managers) is you can’t run and hide from a tough decision,” La Russa said. “When you manage in the big leagues, you make tough decisions routinely — starting with your starting pitching, your pitching changes, guarding the line, pinch-hitting. All this is is another tough decision.”
Torre said 90 percent of umpiring calls could be challenged. Other than balls and strikes, plays that occur on the infield — such as a batted ball bouncing over a bag or a trapped ball in the infield — would not be able to be challenged. That’s because of the issue of where to place the runners — or in the case of the batted ball over the bag, the exact camera angle to determine the result might not be available.
Umpire judgment plays such as obstruction and interference also cannot be challenged, so the Boston Red Sox wouldn’t have had an official leg to stand on last year when the Cardinals’ Allen Craig was allowed to score on an obstruction call to end Game 3 of the World Series.
The dry run for the process will be all the televised games in spring training although, admittedly, the technology and number of cameras won’t be as extensive as in big-league parks.
La Russa is convinced of one thing.
“In the end, you as media members and fans, too, will criticize that we’re not using the replay system enough rather than that we’re using it too much,” he said.
And, with just two challenges maximum per team per game, La Russa said the human element of umpire error can be maintained.
“Human error is part of our games,” La Russa said, “whether it’s (Rafael) Furcal kicking a double play ball against the Mets or a pitcher hanging a breaking ball or a hitter popping up a fastball right down the middle or a manager calling the bullpen in Texas and bringing in the wrong pitcher (as La Russa did in the 2011 World Series). “We don’t want to create a kind of robotic system where you can go out (and challenge) every call.”
AROUND THE HORN
Like La Russa, Torre said his recent election to the Hall of Fame has changed his life.
“I never realized how exciting it was going to be for me,” he said. “It was really incredible, but now it’s overwhelming because of all the people who want to come (to Cooperstown). My wife is one of 16 kids.”
• Pitcher Carlos Martinez, who was the eighth-inning man in last year’s postseason run by the Cardinals, probably will start the first game of the exhibition season a week from today against Miami, manager Mike Matheny said.
• A resolution is expected quickly on what team will sign Cuban shortstop Aledmys Diaz, who worked out for the Cardinals on Wednesday.
• Lefthander Kevin Siegrist, who had been slowed by a side injury, threw Thursday in the bullpen without incident.