As it zeroes in on ways to improve its pace of play, Major League Baseball has turned its attention to an area of built-in dead time -- instant replay.
And its first target is managers.
Sources told ESPN that MLB wants a 30-second time limit for managers to decide whether or not to challenge an umpire's call and is currently discussing that limit, along with other possible changes to replay, with both the players' and umpires' unions.
The current rules say that, in most cases, managers must "immediately" inform umpires if they want to challenge a call. But in reality, there are often long delays as managers often wait for advice from their internal replay assistants before challenging.
Because negotiations are ongoing, it isn't clear whether MLB will end up instituting a firm time limit or just a "guideline." However, one source said he believes a limit is "likely," unless there is unforeseen opposition.
MLB also has talked with the umpires' union about whether it's possible for umpires in the replay center to make quicker rulings. They've discussed a "guideline" of two minutes unless there are extenuating circumstances, sources said.
Under that guideline, umpires would be encouraged to allow calls on the field to stand if they haven't seen clear evidence that would merit changing the call after two minutes. But umpires have long resisted having any firm time limit placed on reviews, since they believe the main goal of using replay is to get as many calls right as possible.
Definitive angles from super-slow-motion cameras are usually the last to be made available to officials in the replay center. In the case of the most difficult reviews, it is those angles that replay umpires want to examine most closely.
The irony in these discussions is that MLB's data from last season shows that the replay process is taking less time than ever. The average review time dropped from 1 minute, 51 seconds in 2015 to 1:36 last year. The time umpires spent on the headset, waiting for word from the replay center, was cut from 1:27 to 1:10. Both figures represent the fastest review times in the three-year history of expanded replay.
MLB also found that 74.5 percent of all reviews took less than 2 minutes, up from 62.2 percent the year before. Reviews of less than one minute jumped from 18.2 percent to 23.5 percent last year. Just as significantly, MLB also was able to cut the number of exceptionally lengthy reviews in half.
Only 5.3 percent of all reviews took 3 minutes or longer, down from 12.6 percent in 2015. And reviews of 4 minutes or longer dropped from 2.7 percent to just 1.2 percent. Just 18 reviews all season lasted 4 minutes or more, compared to 36 in 2015.
But none of that data includes the time managers take before deciding whether to challenge. MLB does not compile the length of time between the end of a play and the manager's decision to challenge or not, nor does it log the number of delays that don't result in a challenge. But sources say that both the commissioner's office and the players would like to find ways to reduce that time.