MLB and unions approve expanded replay, will Coliseum fans benefit?

The usually brief January owners meetings had one major item on the agenda: the approval of expanded replay. Reports coming into the meetings indicated that the discussions could be drawn out, even approaching the start of the regular season. Thankfully, all parties quickly approved the package of changes, including MLBPA and the World Umpires Association. For now the players’ union has agreed to one year of the new replay scheme, leaving the option for future replay arrangements to be collectively bargained or extended on an annual basis.

Basically, just about everything that happens when the ball is in play or batted is subject to replay. That includes the previously reviewable home run calls. Now the package includes fair/foul calls, catches and traps, timing plays, and even force plays (except for the “neighborhood” play on attempted double plays). Pitches that hit (or come close) batters are also up for debate. Like the NHL, all replays will be sent to review officials at MLB headquarters in New York, where they’ll need “clear and convincing” evidence to overturn a call. Unlike previous years, there will no longer be a monitor for use by field umpires to render or influence any decisions.

Perhaps the biggest benefit coming out of the replay plan is that all stadia now get to show all close plays on their video boards, including plays that aren’t under review. This change has been long in coming for ballparks, as it was always frustrating to be unable to see anything controversial. Now fans will be able to truly see how bad umpires blew calls or no-calls – well, most fans at least.

In Oakland, we’re still stuck with pretty old video technology dating back from the mid-90’s. The vintage Diamond Vision CRT displays aren’t the most crisp, and the boards’ size and distance from most fans will make viewing replays a frustrating affair. The Coliseum has by far the smallest video boards in the majors, and they located significantly further from the seats than anywhere else. The chart below illustrates how sad the state of affairs is:

dodgers-others-videoboards

Comparison of video boards throughout MLB from the Chicago Tribune

Throughout the lease negotiations between the JPA, A’s, and Raiders in the fall, we held out slim hopes of improvements that would’ve included scoreboards. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. We and the tenant teams will have to make do with what’s in the Coliseum. Yet there’s a little hope for something better and more reliable to be installed at the Coli.

A little over a year ago, I suggested that the Coliseum buy used video boards off any team or stadium operator that was in the process of replacing their 5 or 10-year-old displays. Turns out that the A’s had checked in with the SF Recreation and Parks department about the displays at Candlestick Park. Now, you may think that the boards at the ‘Stick are awfully outdated and decrepit like the rest of the stadium, but you’d be wrong. The existing displays were only installed in 2008 as part of a suite of technology enhancements. The old Jumbotron in the northeast end was replaced by a 48-foot-wide Daktronics display, mirrored by a much smaller display in the south end. In addition, ribbon boards were added for score and advertising purposes. So there’s the opportunity for only 6-year-old technology to be installed at the Coliseum, right?

Well, maybe not. The A’s (not the JPA or Raiders as far as I know) inquired about the displays, and were told that the displays would be used at least through the spring for events. No chance of getting anything in time for the start of the season, then. SFPR also informed the A’s that the displays would probably be put up on craigslist for the highest bidder, with the idea of recouping whatever funds they could get. Nevermind that to properly use the Daktronics technology a buyer would also have to invest in the control system (hardware and software) to operate the boards. The A’s, in particular, would have to rip out the existing control room and replace it with Daktronics equipment – hopefully the stuff currently at the ‘Stick. To do that the A’s would at some point have to involve the JPA and the Raiders and amend the new leases to reflect the A’s investment – basically a leasehold improvement.

Then there’s also the issue of whether the boards fit. The ‘Stick’s big board is 26′ x 48′, much larger than either of the 20′ x 31.5′ boards at the Coliseum. However, Daktronics’ LED display technology is modular, broken down into 16 x 16 pixel panels that are each slightly larger than a foot square. In theory, it’s possible to reconfigure the boards to fit the scoreboard frames at the Coliseum or change the frames to accommodate larger displays. To illustrate how this might work, I put together a table that shows how these displays would be mixed and matched.

oldstickvideoboards-sm

The key is that all of the displays – the big and small video boards and the ribbon boards – use the same underlying module size. The top lines show the Candlestick configuration, with different sized video boards and 4 ribbon boards elsewhere. The next scenario has a set number of modules replace each of the Diamond Vision displays, conforming to the current size and aspect ratio. The last group shows the boards reconfigured to support standard definition 16:9 video, with 2 of the ribbon boards used to expand the LF/RF scoreboards and the other 2 used to replace the Coli’s current boards. There would still be an issue of replacing the old matrix displays, but that’s a relatively cheap fix. The big non-video scoreboard in the ‘Stick’s north end zone is too football-centric to repurpose for baseball, though it might be useful for the Raiders. I joked earlier today that the JPA should take the displays and stick them on top of Mount Davis since no one’s sitting there, but was told that there’s no way make that work.

Candlestick Park's display setup, with a scoreboard on the left and video board on the right

Candlestick Park’s display setup, with a football-purposed scoreboard on the left and video board on the right

Assuming that some billionaire doesn’t snap up the ‘Stick displays for nostalgia or to build his own stadium somewhere, those boards should be available come spring for the Coliseum to buy. They should be relatively cheap to acquire and a no-brainer purchase for all parties to agree to. The relatively new technology would be a big enhancement for fans with little cash outlay, and would be a pretty responsible recycling of technology. If it can’t happen – well, can’t say someone didn’t try.

19 thoughts on “MLB and unions approve expanded replay, will Coliseum fans benefit?

  1. That’s a great idea. On opening night, I’ll go down to the season ticket office and suggest it. The guy will say “let me ask”, go in the backroom, have a smoke, come back and say “sorry, we can’t do that.”

    Today I learned I sold a season ticket package and a luxury box! More games for me! Sweet! In response to the tail of the previous thread, $2 games are how you rope casual fans (and in this case, Giants fans) into the effort.

    • @freddy – Don’t flatter yourself. They won’t have to fake going to the back. They’ll just tell you straight up. Now maybe the JPA can wise up and start their own effort. Or even the Raiders.

  2. Just more proof of how pathetic our situation continues to be…

  3. I agree with Tony. Having to buy used scoreboards really drives home the notion that Oakland does not have the money to meet the needs of modern-day major pro sports franchises. I guess the stalling, pep rallies and press conferences will continue on while the Raiders and A’s remain in an obsolete, deteriorating stadium with no new facilities in site.

  4. As someone who attends Padres games regularly it was a little shocking to find out that Petco Park’s board is so small and low on the list. It seems so much bigger than the Coloseum when you are there. I’m sure part of at though is how much closer to the field and fans it is compared to the Coliseum’s poorly placed beyond the stadium rim scoreboards. Plus it has the advantage of being supplemented by a dot matrix board 3x the videoboard’s size. Shocking though how big some of these new ones are…

  5. Given the fact that the A’s had signed only a two year lease renewal at the Coliseum, the Coliseum Authority has little incentive to work with the A’s on a scoreboard/video screen replacement. Had Lew Wolff gotten his originally requested five year lease renewal on near his terms, there may have been more wiggle room on both sides to get an upgraded scoreboard/video screen. As of right now, I don’t see it happening.

  6. The Coliseum doesn’t have the money, anyway, does it? It spent the scoreboard on a Coliseum City study.

    • @pjk – The JPA will continue to get their annual naming rights and signage revenue, plus the higher rent from the A’s and the to-be-arbitrated parking fees. There will be money to make this happen.

  7. when i hear bs say that the A’s and Ray’s ballpark resolutions are at the same place it tells me we have more than a few years of this thing dragging on….

  8. @ML/IIpec
    There is probably enough money to make it happen, but as IIpec, points out, there may not be enough incentive. The A’s only have a two year lease, it’s a little odd that if Wolff would have gotten his way it would be a five year lease, and therefore a little more incentive, for the JPA to do soothing, one could say there losing the Raiders A’s, and Warriors, and that should be incentive enough, but if the teams are reluctant (perhaps the Raiders), or won’t work with you at all (A’s Warriors), then the JPA may be saying, well if you’re going to leave regardless, then to hell with you.

  9. @Lakeshore/Neil – If the JPA wants to take the combative stance, that’s on them. The A’s initiated this with the idea that they’d be in the Coliseum past the current lease extension. Consider that.

  10. @ML
    I have considered that, I did say Wolff wanted a longer lease in my original comment. I don’t agree with the JPA, if that’s what they are thinking, I am only saying they could be thinking that, and it would be sad if they were, also if the JPA is taking a combative stand, they certainly would not be the first group to do that in this whole mess.

  11. BTW, it may not matter to the JPA if they had a 2 or 5 year agreement with the A’s, if Wolff’s stance is, I will not play in Oakland long turm, so there is no need to talk to you past 2 or 5 years, then there comes a point, that no matter, how bad Oakland has been in the past, they (JPA), may say to hell with you, if your not going to be here. Not saying I agree with it, but there is a lot of crap thats going on, and its not just flowing toward the A’s

  12. @Lakeshore/Neil – Considering that it’s an election year and numerous public officials (Reid, Kaplan to name two) have been at least paying some lip service to the idea of keeping the A’s at the Coliseum, I’d be very surprised if the JPA had such a stance. It’s quite extreme.

  13. @ ML I agree with you, I guess I am just mad, it just looks like this will not be solved any time soon.

  14. @Lakeshore/Neil, We don’t really know the circumstances as to why the A’s lease renewal with the Coliseum went from the originally proposed five years to two years. Lew Wolff wanted five years, given that it would take at least that amount of time to get a new Bay Area ballpark built for his A’s. I’m sure that the Coliseum Authority would not object to a longer term commitment, too. Even in the event that the Raiders get their new Coliseum site stadium deal approved sooner than expected, I’m sure that the A’s would have had an escape clause included for that scenario. I can only speculate as to the reason for only a two year lease renewal However, I do believe that at some point AT&T Park is being considered as a temporary home for the A’s, especially if the A’s are granted permission to move to San Jose. Hopefully, in due time we will get the answers to these questions.

  15. @IIpec I agree with you 100%, I was only saying from the JPA’s point of view, if the A’s will not consider CC or HT (if it can even be built on), then 2 or 5 years really does not matter, I fill like the 2 years came from MLB, because Lew wanted 5, and the JPA was going for 5-8, I think MLB wants the A’s at AT&T after thoes 2 years, as you stated. I dont think Lew wants to be at AT&T, and thats why he wanted 5 years, again as you said it would take him at lest that amount of time to build in SJ or anywhere in the Bay Area, and even though ML brings up the fact that its an election year, well I dont think that means much eather, because as he said those folks will pay lip service, toward saving the A’s, that may be all they have been doing to this point anyway, so the members of the JPA could pay lip service all day long, while out of the publics view saying to hell with the A’s if they dont want to be here, we will give them, the few years they need to stay, but since they are out of here, we will not spend one dime on upgrades.

  16. It’s pretty awesome. That feeling when I look up to check the line score, or what the count is, or… anything. Only, the part of the board that would contain whatever information it is I am looking for has gone dark. I realize this means I am less of a fan, or something…

  17. Im still holding out hope Malik/Colony make a public announcement that they are putting money to C.C (even tho its been a month delay).. if that goes well could both the Raiders and A’s be sharing a stadium with 49ers and Giants…while the new Raider stadium in Oakland and baseball park in Sj/ or Oakland is built…does seem that way?

    I like ML idea of converting mount Davis to a new scoreboard area…I think there are a lot of electrical issues thst get in the way…but there got to be some company that could make it work

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