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Schuerholz optimistic about expanded replay in '14

Ban on home-plate collisions also tops agenda as owners meet in Arizona

PARADISE VALLEY, Ariz. -- With less than a month to go before pitchers and catchers begin reporting to Spring Training, Braves president John Schuerholz remains confident that expanded instant replay will be implemented for the 2014 season.

That issue, along with a new rule that would outlaw home-plate collisions, could be voted on before the quarterly Owners Meetings at The Sanctuary resort are adjourned on Thursday. Even if those issues don't come up for a vote, approval could be procured with a conference call.

"We feel optimistic," said Schuerholz, who chaired the committee -- which included former big league managers, Hall of Fame electees and Major League Baseball executives Joe Torre and Tony La Russa -- that has been studying the matter for months. "We feel good. We feel like we've worked through this process in as much detail as possible."

Even if the owners give final approval to both measures, there are still steps that would need to be taken before they could go into effect. The most obvious is that approval from both the Major League Baseball Players Association and the World Umpires Association is required.

"There's a great deal of dialogue going on [with the unions], and our anticipation is that both our partners will be willing and ready to go forward," Schuerholz said. "But we don't have the answer to that yet."

Said Tony Clark, executive director of the MLBPA: "We are continuing to discuss both issues, with the expectation that we can find common ground on both soon."

Testing of the process and technology of the proposed system, which would be run from MLB Advanced Media's headquarters in New York City, took place during Arizona Fall League games in November.

Expanded replay has been a topic of intense discussion over a long period of time. The proposal has evolved over time and, in fact, is still subject to change. Schuerholz had a meeting on the subject as late as Wednesday afternoon.

The idea of banning home-plate collisions, by contrast, only began to gain traction at the General Managers Meetings last November. The Playing Rules Committee then passed the concept in December, even before any definition of the rule had been written.

"It will be presented here," said Schuerholz. "If not a rule, there will be a proposal that lays out the contemplations of what the rule ought to be. We're at that point."

Schuerholz, as he has done in the past, stressed that whatever form expanded replay takes in the beginning could be drastically altered after the system is fine-tuned.

"As I've been telling everyone, this is a three-year rollout," he said. "And the reason we say that is because this is uncharted territory for us, for the industry, for the managers, for the replay officials and for the umpires. Everyone. So we're going to take our time. We're going to do it right. We're going to be honest about it and admit its complexities. Admit the challenges. But we feel good that we're going to come out with a program that works very well.

"Because of the complexities, we realize there are going to be some things that don't work as well as we think they should. And there will be some things that work very well. So what we'll do is try to fix the ones that didn't work well and maximize the ones that do. And as we go on this three-year process, by the end of that time, we ought to have a program that's as near to perfect as we humans can be in this imperfect game of ours."

Schuerholz made it clear that he believes expanded replay will be good for baseball.

"Behind all this, and buttressing all this, we should remember that managers will be given an opportunity that they've never had in the history of the game," said Schuerholz. "And that will be to challenge a play and perhaps have it reversed. And perhaps have that reversal benefit their team and win a game that might win a division that gets them into a playoffs, and who knows from there? Never before have they had that opportunity. So they're going to be armed with that now."

Paul Hagen is a reporter for