Saturday Links: Powell, Interpreters, Instant Replay, ESPN

Powell. (Mark Kolbe/Getty)
Powell. (Mark Kolbe/Getty)

The Yankees handled some major offseason business on arbitration filing day yesterday. They agreed to new one-year deals with Michael Pineda and Dustin Ackley, and exchanged figures with Aroldis Chapman, Didi Gregorius, Nathan Eovaldi, and Ivan Nova. They can still work out contracts with those four players. They aren’t necessarily headed for arbitration hearing now. Anyway, here are some assorted links and notes to pass along.

Yankees scouted cricket player Kieran Powell

Here’s a fun little story. Kieran Powell, one of the best cricket players in the world, is attempting to transition to baseball. Jack Curry says the Yankees had a scout on hand for his workout Wednesday. Powell, 25, is from the West Indies, and last summer he spent eight weeks working with former big leaguers to develop baseball skills. From Jared Diamond:

Following a contract dispute with the West Indies team, Powell’s agent sent footage of Powell to major-league teams, catching the eye of scouts from the Los Angeles Dodgers. They arranged for Powell to spend eight weeks last summer training in Southern California with two former Dodgers players to start the process of dropping his “cricket habits” and learning the nuances of baseball. (Powell declined to reveal which ex-players worked with him.)

Powell headed to the IMG Academy in Florida to continue training following his crash course with the Dodgers. He’s been working with Tim Raines Jr. and former Yankees farmhand John-Ford Griffin. Here’s some video of him in the batting cage.

There is almost no overlap between baseball and cricket at the pro level, so Powell would be a pioneer. The games are similar in that you’re hitting a ball with a bat, but the swing mechanics are very different. (Cricket involves an extreme uppercut, for example.) Both games do require top notch hand-eye coordination though, and Powell has that.

Curry says the Yankees aren’t interested because they didn’t see any standout baseball skills, and one evaluator went as far as telling Wally Matthews, “He sucks. He’s not worth any time.” Ouch. I am curious see how Powell does on the diamond though.

Teams required to provide Spanish interpreters

According to Jerry Crasnick, teams will be required to provide full-time Spanish interpreters for players beginning next season thanks to a new directive implemented by MLB and the MLBPA. Many clubs already have interpreters while others rely on coaches or other players to translate during media scrums. Teams routinely hire individual interpreters for Asian players, but not Spanish players.

Carlos Beltran has been pushing for full-time Spanish interpreters for years, and in fact David Waldstein says Beltran reached out to the MLBPA to make it happen. Most notably Beltran spoke out after Pineda spoke to the media without an interpreter following the pine tar incident two years ago. “It’s a problem, of course, because he can’t express himself the way he wants to,” said Beltran the next day when he found out Pineda did not have a translator.

Roughly 25% of players come from Spanish speaking countries these days, so this is long overdue. I’m surprised it took this long for MLB and the union to get something done. You’d think they want to help players who are attempting to communicate in their second language. Hopefully the league implements a similar program in the minors. Of course, the MLBPA has been hanging minor leaguers out to dry for years now, so who knows.

MLB not close to changing replay rules for slides

MLB is not close to changing the instant replay rules for overslides, reports Jon Morosi. Those are the nitpicky plays where the the player comes off the base for an instant. Stuff like this:

I hate that. Yes, the rules say the player is out, but man, I don’t think that’s what anyone intended when they wanted expanded replay. If the player completely overslides the base, yes, then replay. But a little pop up off the bag like that? Especially when it’s the result of the impact of the slide? I feel like that should be off-limits from replay. Either way, no rule change is coming. Stay on the base.

ESPN releases early Sunday Night Baseball schedule

A few weeks ago ESPN announced the early season portion of their Sunday Night Baseball schedule. As always, the Yankees will be among the most featured clubs. Here are their games:

  • April 10th: Yankees at Tigers
  • May 1st: Yankees at Red Sox
  • May 8th: Red Sox at Yankees
  • July 17th: Red Sox at Yankees

The back-to-back Yankees-Red Sox games in early-May made me laugh. ESPN still pumps up the rivalry even though it’s been four years since both teams were good at the same time. At least some more teams will be involved in Sunday Night Baseball next year, including the Astros and Diamondbacks. The Astros haven’t played on Sunday Night Baseball since 2013 and the D’Backs haven’t been featured since 2008.

Also, ESPN announced a new Sunday Night Baseball booth: Dan Shulman remains as play-by-play man and will be joined by Jessica Mendoza and Aaron Boone. Curt Schilling will be moved to other broadcasts and John Kruk is going to be an in-studio analyst. Having a pro-Yankees guy (Boone) in the booth will be a welcome change.

It’s official: Expanded replay coming to MLB in 2014

Expanded instant replay has been officially approved for the 2014 season, MLB announced. The owners, players’ union, and umpires’ union all had to sign off on the new system before it could be implemented. Replays will be conducted at the league’s central office in New York, not on-site by the umpires.

The system is explained here. Here’s the short version: Managers get two challenges per game, but they lose the second challenge if the first is unsuccessful. Kinda silly, but whatever. The crew chief can elect to review any play from the seventh inning on without a manager’s challenge. The full list of reviewable plays are right here and notice that the neighborhood play at second base is not reviewable. That could have created some headaches. Clubs are now allowed to show any and all replays on the ballpark scoreboard, even those that were not reviewed. That’s neat. It’s not a perfect system but it is progress.

Owners unanimously approve expanded instant replay for 2014

As the GM Meetings wrapped up today, Bud Selig confirmed MLB’s owners unanimously approved expanded instant replay for the 2014 season. Both the players’ and umpires’ unions must sign off on the plan before it can be implemented, but that is expected to happen. “There isn’t one play or one instance that changed my mind. It has just happened over time. I know we’re doing the right thing,” said the commissioner.

Under the new system, each manager will be given two challenges to use at any point in the game. Managers were expected to be given three challenges under an earlier proposal, but they could only use one in the first six innings. I’m glad they changed that. Challenges are lost only if the play is not overturned — the play is reviewed off-site and the ruling is relayed to the umpiring crew — and if the challenge is successful, the manager retains it for use later in the game. Balls and strikes can not be challenged (duh) and homerun calls will still be handled by the umpires, as has been the case since 2008.

MLB tested the new system during Arizona Fall League play last week — managers were given an unlimited number of challenges and were encouraged to use them so they could work out any bugs — and things went fine. The games themselves were painfully slow because of all the replays, but that won’t be an issue next year as long as each manager is limited to two challenges. The challenges and replays themselves were quick and easy, usually taking less than a minute. It’s not a perfect system, but it’s definitely an improvement. Hooray.

MLB prepared to adopt expanded replay with manager’s challenge system

Via Bob Nightengale: MLB is prepared to adopt an expanded replay system that would give managers the opportunity to challenge a disputed play. Managers would get three challenges per game but could only use one in the first six innings (wtf?), and most (but not all) plays would be reviewable. Reviews will be made by a central office that will remain in contact with the crew chief.

Expanding instant replay is great and MLB should be all for it, but the manager challenge system is … questionable. There will be a lot of ways to exploit the system, namely by having someone in the clubhouse watching replays before telling the manager to formally issue the challenge. I suppose you could also see a situation where a challenge is made just to give a reliever more time to warm up. I dunno, we’ll see. There is a phasing plan to implement the system in 2014, but the final vote won’t come until the owners’ meetings in November. The players’ and umpires’ unions must sign off as well. Getting the umps to agree could be a headache.

Stark: Instant replay unlikely to be expanded in 2013

Via Jayson Stark: Instant replay is unlikely to be expanded in time for next season. MLB tested out a new system for fair-or-foul calls at Yankee Stadium and CitiField late last season, but the league can’t decide on a technology or how to employ it. We went through the exact same “MLB is looking into it … lol too bad” song and dance last offseason.

MLB to test out expanded instant replay system in Yankee Stadium this season

With instant replay, we wouldn’t have this.

Baseball implemented a new playoff system this year, and now we might be closing in on a new instant replay system as well. Jeff Passan and Ken Rosenthal report that MLB will test out a new radar and camera-based replay system in Yankee Stadium and CitiField starting next week. It’s the same Hawk-Eye Innovations system used for boundary calls in tennis and would be used for fair-or-foul calls only.

“We continue to investigate it,” said Joe Torre, MLB’s VP of Baseball Ops. “I don’t think we’re at the point now where we want to do that, increase replay more than we have. Unless we’re confident that it’s going to be something that will work without any hiccups, we’re not planning to [officially implement] anything right now.”

The results of the test run this year will not be made public or anything, they’re just going to internally test the system. The new Collective Bargaining Agreement allows for expanded replay, and if this new system passes the test in the coming weeks, it could be officially implemented around the league next season. That, obviously, is a very good thing. The human element is the players, not the umpires.

There’s still a lot of opposition to expanding instant replay — especially for ball-and-strike calls as well as bang-bang plays on the bases — but this new testing system is a positive step forward. Even if the Hawk-Eye system flops and is impractical, at least we know that the league is making an attempt to move forward. Automated ball-and-strike calls are a long, long way off, but getting fair-or-foul calls right is progress.

Report: No expanded instant replay in 2012

The new Collective Bargaining Agreement has garnered lots of negative attention mostly due to spending restrictions on amateur players, but one of the great things it’s done is expand instant replay. In addition to homers (“boundary calls,” technically), the replay system will be expanded to include fair-or-foul calls, trapped calls, and fan interference. Unfortunately, it won’t happen in 2012.

According to the AP, expanded replay will not be instituted this year because MLB and the two unions (players and umpires) were unable to come to an agreement on an acceptable set of rules. The umpires want something in return for agreeing to replay — like improved benefits or pensions — and there is also concern about different camera angles at different parks. I’m amazed they rushed to get the new playoff system put in place but not expanded replay. If I had to pick one or the other for this season, I know which one I would pick, and it isn’t the one they chose.