Ever since the game was invented, before television or even radio existed, baseball counted on the eyes and ears of umpires on the field. Starting this season, many key decisions will be made in a studio far away.
Major League Baseball vaulted into the 21st century of technology on Thursday, approving a huge expansion of instant replay in hopes of eliminating blown calls that riled up players, managers and fans.
“I think it’s great,” San Francisco Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. “It’s about getting it right.”
Acknowledging the human element had been overtaken in an era when everyone except the umps could see several views over and over in slow-motion, owners and players and umpires OKed the new system.
Now each manager will be allowed to challenge at least one call per game. If he’s right, he gets another challenge. After the seventh inning, a crew chief can request a review on his own if the manager has used his challenges.
“I tell you the fans will love it,” baseball Commissioner Bud Selig said after owners met and voted their unanimous approval. “It’s another in a long list of changes that will make this sport better than it already is.”
Baseball was the last major pro sport in North America to institute replay when it began late in the 2008 season. Even then, it was only used for close calls on home runs.
RAYS: Three-time AL All-Star David Price and the Tampa Bay Rays have agreed to a $14 million, one-year contract, the highest single-season salary in franchise history. The 2012 Cy Young Award winner has been the subject of trade speculation after going 10-8 with a 3.33 ERA last year while earning $10,112,500. He is eligible for free agency after the 2015 season. His 2013 season was interrupted by his first stint on the disabled list, caused by a strained triceps. Price is the Rays career leader in ERA and winning percentage, and he is second in victories. Tampa Bay, which made the playoffs for the fourth time in six seasons, announced the deal Thursday.
AUSTRALIAN OPEN: Maria Sharapova was already soaking in ice by the time the extreme weather warning arrived. It seemed bafflingly late to the four-time major winner, who felt fried after playing for 3½ hours in searing heat to reach the third round of the Australian Open. She didn’t know it when she was out on Rod Laver Arena tangling with Karin Knapp on Thursday, but tournament organizers had finally conceded it was unsafe to keep players on court on the third consecutive day of what is shaping as a once-in-a-century heat wave. Matches were suspended for four hours as temperatures topped 43 Celsius (109 Fahrenheit) before subsiding, but that didn’t apply to Sharapova and Knapp because they were already into the third set and the Extreme Heat Policy only kicks in at the end of sets in progress.
ARKANSAS STATE: A Red Wolves football player and his stepfather were shot to death during a home invasion robbery in Jackson, Tenn., with the athlete apparently trying to protect his parents from their attackers, police said Thursday. Markel Owens, a 21-year-old junior defensive lineman for the Red Wolves, was fatally shot along with Johnny Shivers, 36, during the robbery at a duplex on Wednesday night. Shivers died at the scene, while Owens was pronounced dead after being taken to Jackson-Madison County General Hospital.
SOUTH CAROLINA: Steve Spurrier has received a one-year contract extension and a raise that will pay the coach $4 million annually. The university board of trustees approved a $700,000 raise and the extension Thursday. The deal ties Spurrier to the school through 2018. If the 68-year-old coach decides to retire, the trustees voted for a contract clause that would make Spurrier a special assistant to university President Harris Pastides and athletic director Ray Tanner. With the raise, Spurrier becomes one of the top 10 highest-paid college football coaches in the country.
THIEL TO HOST CAMP IN TRAVERSE CITY: U.S.A. national player and Traverse City native Phil Thiel will be hosting a free “Introduction to rugby” indoors camp for boys in grades 6-12 on Saturday. The event runs from 5-7 p.m. at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Middle School Gym. For more information, contact Chuck Benson at 342-5085.
MIXED MARTIAL ARTS
UFC: President Dana White said he was shocked by Georges St-Pierre’s attack on the promotion’s drug-testing stance, calling the former welterweight champion’s comments “insane.” “This whole Georges St-Pierre thing is shocking, weird and it’s insane,” White said during a postfight show Wednesday on “Fox Sports Live.” St-Pierre, who vacated the belt last month and stepped away from the sport, said on Tuesday that part of the reason he did so was the UFC’s lax drug policy. He also believes fighters won’t speak out on issues because of fear of repercussions.