Winter Meetings interview with Joe Torre & Sandy Alderson

Winter Meetings interview with Joe Torre & Sandy Alderson

Q. Can you guys update us on where you stand on the collisions?

JOE TORRE: The replay, we had a meeting, as everybody knows, with the managers and general managers and it was a two hour meeting, and it was more a discussion, conversation because we basically this has been so complicated over the hours that we've put in, hundreds of hours, actually. And we just wanted to keep them, since we had them here, keep them informed on where we are. And I've heard some things making the rounds on what the process is and how many challenges, and changes, and all of that stuff is probably discussed in everything I was talking about as far as outside that room. But the fact of the matter is we still have two unions that, so there is really nothing that is in stone at this point in time. But I thought it was a good opportunity to give the managers a little head's up, and especially the fact that the next time we see them it will be spring training, just give them something to think about, and to let them call us with any questions or suggestions. So, you know, it certainly wasn't a meeting where we said this is the way it's going to be. It was basically this is where we are right now, and I really don't want to go into it only because it may not be the same thing we start the season with. We have a pretty good idea of where we want to be, but, again, we still have to wait for the unions to sign off.

Q. Where are talks with the two unions? What is the status?

JOE TORRE: I think we're good. But, again, we have to wait until we get the staff that we're comfortable. And I know that Rob is talking to the umpires union. We had a meeting on Sunday with the umpire union representatives. And we're basically talking and thinking about some of the discussions we've had.

Q. Are you still looking at a mix of present and former umpires to be the ones looking at the replays?

JOE TORRE: That's being talked about. It's important that whatever process we decide to use that we have everybody on the same page.

Q. One thing that upper managers seemed to have come out of that with was instead of discouraging electronic help from a coach upstairs, there is going to be a way to facilitate that, is that just not correct?

JOE TORRE: No, I didn't say it's not correct. It's just that we've talked about a lot of stuff. The one thing in this process that our goal is to make everything uniform for all the teams. So you have a road team and a home team, we are making sure that that home team is not going to have an advantage over the road team. We're going to our attempt or not an attempt, but we plan on having the technology standardized for everybody.

Q. Another thing to come out, a couple managers said the challenge is something that you guys are still kicking around. I know you said it's not set in stone. But I guess you guys are concerned about the time sensitive nature of it, the delay by having too many of them. So is that something you're looking to maybe try to confine or restrict?

JOE TORRE: Yeah, to me, we've played this game a long time, and I guess in some people's estimations too long, without doing something more with the replay we have in place now. But to me it's a matter of what makes sense to the game. The game is the most important thing. I know we have technology. We can't ignore it. That's why we're even where we are now, how far along we are now as far as adding more replay. But we certainly don't want to affect the rhythm of the game. Our sport is a little different than other sports. We don't have the built in timeouts that other sports have where they can do stuff. And we're trying to make sense of what we can do without interfering, and what is important for us, and that is the rhythm of the game.

Q. Is there just a ballpark number, Joe, you can say of how many times you would want a game to be stopped for challenges? Or is it tough? Would you say I wouldn't want a total of more than five or something like that?

JOE TORRE: Let me say something to you. Umpires are my responsibility. I'd like to see no challenges through the course of the ballgame, that's for sure. But we have to be realistic. But the fewer, the better. That's because I'd like to believe because right now I think our take on it is we've missed like one call every 5.7 or 8 games. But, again, managers have questions. The interesting part about a manager, and Tony and I putting on the manager's cap and working with Jon Schuerholz on this is the fact that there is nothing insignificant about any play that happens during the course of a game because it can turn into something big. As I say, we just sort of planted some seeds today on some of our thinking, on how we're thinking. As far as how many challenges, you know, the fewer the better for me. Because it is probably easier to increase later as opposed to pulling back because the game would suffer if I think we've had too many of those.

Q. We're like three months away from spring training. It's right around the corner. Not even three months. A couple months anyway. There seems to be an awful lot of fluidity within this whole process. There are still questions about how you're doing the challenges and all the other stuff. I'm just wondering, because it's only been implemented a few weeks in the Arizona fall league. Why are you guys rushing to get this thing through starting next year when there are still all these questions about it?

JOE TORRE: I think it can come together very quickly. We're certainly not going to force something if we're not ready to do it the right way. We're pretty confident we can do it with the six or seven weeks of spring training, and that will be our practice ground both in Florida and Arizona. But they're just loose ends not tied up. It's not like we're all over the place. We're in here somewhere. That's why we wanted to update the managers and general managers today on where we are. There was basically a discussion. We broke up and started talking, and I started talking about, like I said I was going to, the catchers about the collision stuff, which Sandy will discuss. Then there was more conversation within that conversation about the collisions about the replay. So it's just been I think it was good for the managers because there are so many rumors that circulate. The fact that they heard it from us, at least they have an idea on, you know, where we are, where we are. So I don't think it's going to be something that we're going to force because, I agree, it's not the safest thing to do because we've waited this long to do it, and I'm not about to just because the season is starting that we have to force this. I think we'll be in pretty good shape by that time.

Q. Following that up quickly, there had been talk in the past that they were going to try to use it in a lower minor leagues or somewhere for a full season just to see how the delays were and everything else. Are you comfortable with the fact that you've only used it for a few weeks in the Arizona fall league?

JOE TORRE: Yeah, I think what we found out in the fall league is the one concern we all had and that is length, how long it would take. In the fall league I think we were satisfied with the technology available and how quickly we can get it that we can if we have to if we do go to replay, it will be a minute, minute and a half.

Q. Has there been discussion about the neighborhood play?

JOE TORRE: There's always a question.

Q. You have to close game, you got to play, that is often called the way it is because of player safety, how is that going to work?

JOE TORRE: Well, we have a list of inclusions and exclusions. Right now they're being discussed. They're being discussed. That certainly is one question that was requested. Sandy? SANDY

ALDERSON: Let me at the outset so you can ask me questions about something concrete, we just had the rules committee meeting, following a meeting earlier this year at the general managers meeting in November and addressed the issue of collisions at home plate. After the general manager's meeting at which there was an expression of interest in eliminating those plays at the plate, the rules committee sent out an invitation to all clubs, including general managers, to comment on the possibility of such a change. We convened the meeting today. We had several Major League managers in attendance, and the result of the vote was that we will eliminate collisions at home plate by governing both catchers and runners in that situation. The exact language and how exactly the rule will be enforced and is subject to final determination. We're going to do fairly extensive review of the types of plays that occur at home plate to determine which we're going to find acceptable and which are going to be prohibited. But this is, I think, in response to a few issues that have arisen. One is just the general occurrence of injuries from these incidents at home plate that affect players, both runners and catchers. And also kind of the general concern about concussions that exists not only in baseball but throughout professional sports and amateur sports today. It's an emerging issue, and one that we in baseball have to address as well as other sports. So that's part of the impetus for this rule change as well.

Q. Sandy, did that just become a unilateral announcement for this coming season? Is there anything else that has to be voted on?

SANDY ALDERSON: No, the process that will be followed is that the rule will be finally drafted. It will be finally approved by the rules committee. It will be submitted to ownership for approval in January, then subsequently submitted to the Players Association for their approval. If The Players Association were to disapprove, then the implementation of the rule would be suspended for one year, but could be implemented unilaterally after that time. That is the subsequent process.

Q. For those who really are trying to for the runners who are trying to score and the catchers who are trying to block the run, how could this be prevented in a way where it could just happen incidentally?

SANDY ALDERSON: Well, there are college and high school rules currently that address this issue. It has to do with a number of different things, positioning, intent, a variety of thing that's we are going to look at. Umpires will have some discretion, but at the same time, umpires have other things to do deciding whether the run scores or doesn't score. So it's a little more complicated than it would appear. But I think ultimately what we want to do is change the culture of acceptance that these plays are ordinary and routine and an accepted part of the game, that the risks and individual risks, the costs associated in terms of health and injury just no longer warrant the status quo. So the actual detail, frankly the kinds of plays that we're trying to eliminate, we haven't finely determined. But what I would expect to put together 100 of these plays and identify which ones we want to continue to allow and others that we want to prohibit and draft a rule accordingly.

Q. I know it's a work in progress, but I'm assuming the word "ejection" is going to come into play, and the word "fine" at some point will come into play as well?

SANDY ALDERSON: I think there will be two levels of enforcement of this rule. One will be with respect to whether the runner is declared safe or out based on conduct. So, for example, intentionally running over the catcher might result in an out call. So I think that the enforcement will be on the field as well as subsequent consequences in the form of fines and suspensions and the like. I think it will be two fold, as most actions on the field are governed today. You can have an ejection and a subsequent fine or suspension. So I think we'd look at both propositions as a way of enforcing the rule.

Q. Just to be clear, there will be a rule proposed, and the only thing that would keep it from being instituted in 2014 is The Players Association?

SANDY ALDERSON: No, it will have to go through a final draft and final approval by the rules committee, a subsequent approval by Major League Baseball club owners, and then a final approval by The Players Association.