Phillies preparing for challenge of challenging calls

Posted: March 27, 2014

The challenge has been a challenge in the NFL for quite some time, and now it's about to become part of Major League Baseball's lexicon, too.

When do you challenge? What's worth challenging? Who monitors the replays? Who's to blame when you get it wrong?

Having someone other than the game officials involved in making sure a call is right is wrong, but at least baseball is finally embracing a technology that the NFL first welcomed when Madonna was singing about virgins, holidays, and preaching papas.

The Eagles have been dealing with replay issues for decades, and some would argue not very well, either. Poor replay decisions ranked right behind boring news conferences and mounting losses among the reasons Eagles fans were ready to boot Andy Reid out of the Lincoln Financial Field tunnel.

Some of it was justified, some of it overplayed. New coach Chip Kelly and his coaching staff had their own set of problems in the replay department last season. They challenged seven times, and only three plays were overturned, but that tells only part of the story because other plays went unchallenged that should have been.

Former Eagles president Joe Banner said replay challenges were rarely a hot-button topic inside the organization during his tenure.

"The head coaches controlled it, and they would usually assign someone to be their primary set of eyes, with others helping," Banner said. "Sometimes after a game, if there was a situation in question, you'd say, 'What were you thinking there?' But it wasn't something that was extensively reviewed or talked about.

"The head coach was the primary person, and you would talk philosophically beforehand about how liberal or conservative you wanted to be in challenging something. But honestly, we always felt like it should be up to the coaches to handle it, and that was true in Philadelphia and Cleveland."

Baseball, of course, is a different game from football, but rest assured that before this 162-game season is over, the Phillies will be dealing with at least one challenge controversy, if not more.

The dry runs that were supposed to take place during spring training did not go as planned because the New York command center was not in place, and the ballparks did not have the camera angles that will be in place when the regular season begins. Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said the Phillies will have a better feel for the system after they play their final two exhibition games against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Citizens Bank Park this week.

"We've talked a little bit about the strategy with [manager] Ryne [Sandberg], and we're taking a lot of advice from the commissioner's office on how we should attack it," Amaro said.

The advice from New York is challenge when you get the chance because the umpires don't miss many plays. That may be true, but replay is going to change the game and the ballpark experience.

Managers will each get one challenge per game, and if they challenge correctly, they will get another. If they have burned their challenge before the seventh inning, then it will be up to the umpire to request a replay review during the final three innings.

That sure sounds like there will be potential for controversy over the course of 2,430 regular-season games.

Anyone who has ever been at an Eagles game has witnessed what happens when there is a close call the home team might challenge. On the Linc's giant end-zone screens, which are getting a high-definition upgrade this offseason, the replay is shown backward, forward, and in the slowest possible motion.

Close plays have been off-limits in the past on baseball's giant replay boards, but that has officially changed.

How the Phillies decide to challenge a call will be much different from the way the Eagles and most NFL teams have gone through the process.

Their man in charge of watching the replay will be Kevin Camiscioli, a longtime employee whose job title is manager of video coaching services. He has been the guy in charge of the video room, where the manager, coaches, and players go to study opposing pitchers and their own swing.

Now, he has an additional role.

"He'll be our primary guy," Amaro said. "We have backups, but Kevin is our videographer in the trenches."

Even though this is the first year of extensive replay - previously only boundary calls on home runs have been reviewed by MLB - Camiscioli has been supplying Amaro with information about replays for years.

"There would be calls where I'd call downstairs and he'd have an answer right away," Amaro said.

Before, there was nothing the Phillies or any other team could do about the missed calls that may have changed the outcome of the game.

Now, they have that option. As the Eagles can tell you, it can become another source of criticism if not done properly.


bbrookover@phillynews.com

@brookob

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