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:
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.
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.
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.