After Further Review, MLB Says OK To Instant Replay

Other sports leagues have fully embraced instant replay to help officiating for years. Major League Baseball stubbornly held out...until Thursday. Owners approved a plan for instant replay starting next season. Sportswriter Stefan Fatsis tells Robert Siegel about that development and other off-season baseball matters, including Derek Jeter: Book Publisher.

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

And I'm Robert Siegel. At their winter meetings in Orlando yesterday, Major League Baseball owners decided to join other sports, and expand the use of instant replay to adjudicate calls on the field. Sportswriter Stefan Fatsis joins us now to discuss that and other off-season baseball matters. Hi, Stefan.

STEFAN FATSIS, BYLINE: Hey, Robert.

SIEGEL: It's a big step for baseball. How will it work?

FATSIS: It is a big step, a big step into the 21st century. Football, hockey and basketball added replay for the first time in 1986, 1991 and 2001, respectively. Baseball did implement a limited system for home-run calls in 2008. This new plan will give managers a set number of challenges per game. Officials watching from Major League Baseball headquarters in New York will make the decisions, and communicate that to the game umpires. The only calls that won't be reviewable will be pure judgment calls - like balls and strikes and checked swings.

SIEGEL: But the details still need to be worked out.

FATSIS: Yeah, they do. Major League Baseball has to negotiate this both with the players' union and the umpires' union. And there - no doubt - will be issues. For instance, depending on a team's resources and its television deals, the number of and placement of cameras varies from stadium to stadium. To make the replay process fair across the sport, will baseball, then, need to find a way to standardize that?

SIEGEL: Baseball is handing out its post-season awards. Tell us about some of the winners this week.

FATSIS: Well, the most valuable players were announced yesterday: Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder Andrew McCutcheon, in the National League; and for a second straight year, Detroit Tigers third baseman Miguel Cabrera. McCutcheon is the first African-American winner since 2007, at a time when the number of black big leaguers is at what's been a steady low, about 8.5 percent on opening day rosters.

In the World Series, just one out of 50 players on the Red Sox and the Cardinals identified himself as African-American. Baseball is certainly concerned about that. Andrew McCutcheon is, too. He said he hopes he can be a role model.

SIEGEL: OK. Let's talk about the Rookie of the Year award in the National League. The winner was not Yasiel Puig, of the Los Angeles Dodgers, who commanded attention; but another Cuban emigre, pitcher Jose Fernandez, of the Florida Marlins.

FATSIS: Yeah. He is the first Cuban born and raised in Cuba, to win since Tony Oliva, in 1964. Jose Canseco won the award in 1986, but he had left the island as an infant. Fernandez is just 21 years old. He arrived from Cuba on a boat as a refugee, five years ago. He was drafted in the first round of the Major League Baseball draft three years later. He wasn't even supposed to be in the major leagues this year, but the Marlins were so bad, they lacked depth in pitching; and they promoted him early.

Puig got all the attention. He had tried to defect from Cuba numerous times; and he was banished, effectively, from the sport there. Finally, he defected to Mexico in still-mysterious circumstances, in June of 2012; just 22 years old, a star seemingly without a past. And the youth of both of these players, I think, is significant. It's part of a wave of Cuban players leaving the island at younger ages.

SIEGEL: And finally, Stefan, in what is certainly the oddest story to emerge from this year's hot-stove league, New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter has announced a second career - book publisher.

FATSIS: Yes. Now editing - No. 2, Derek Jeter.

(LAUGHTER)

FATSIS: Yeah. Jeter Publishing, with a capital P. It'll be an imprint of Simon & Schuster. Apparently, Jeter will oversee all sorts of books: biographies, business, food, fashion, children's. There's talk of movie deals and brand extensions. Jeter said he'll be involved in details like cover art and titles. But is he really going to be a day-job book publisher, which usually requires, you know, lots of experience; or is this the equivalent of an endorsement deal? And if it is, you know, celebrity imprints aren't unprecedented, but are readers are really going to flock to titles because Derek Jeter's name is on the spine?

SIEGEL: Stefan, thanks. Have a great weekend.

FATSIS: You, too, Robert.

SIEGEL: Stefan Fatsis joins us most Fridays, to talk about sports and the business of sports. You can hear more of him on Slate magazine's sports podcast, "Hang Up and Listen."

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