A Major League Baseball official refers to the game's massive changes in 2014 as "a celebration." And, to some degree, it is.
To reach this point on instant replay and home-plate collisions, as well as making at least some progress on headgear protection for pitchers, took an enormous amount of time, work and energy. But more than a celebration, the season should be viewed as historic. And most people in baseball agree that eventually the changes will make the game better.
"Two or three years from now," said Orioles manager Buck Showalter said, "we'll all be saying, 'What took us so long?'"
It might take two or three years to refine, if not perfect, the processes, which can be ambiguous and complicated. This first season of expanded replay and protection of the catcher is a work in progress, a learning experience, with almost as many questions as answers.
So here are some questions that fans, managers and players will be asking in 2014.
How will the pace of game be affected by instant replay?
"I don't think it will be slowed by very much," Showalter said. Hopefully, this won't be like the NFL where the officials disappear into a cone of silence for five minutes as we wait to find out if we're allowed to cheer.
Baseball's replay system will be aided by the fact that virtually every play will be viewed live by an umpiring crew in the command center in New York. So if a play is challenged, the command center probably has already seen the play. When the crew chief calls for a ruling, it shouldn't take long to uphold or reverse it. The hope is that the entire process won't take more than 90 seconds, which might be ambitious. Many people believe baseball is slow and boring, and slowing it more would be a huge mistake. It will take more than a year for the process to be quick, concise and foolproof.
What plays will be challenged most, and why?
According to MLB data collected from last season, 86 percent of all missed calls came on force plays (46 percent -- most of them at first base) and tag plays (40 percent). According to MLB data from 2013, there were 377 missed calls- -- that's clear and convincing evidence -- in 2,431 games, or one missed call every six games. In only 27 games were there two such calls missed. And in only three games were there three such calls missed.
"Replay is going to show just how good the umpires are," said Red Sox manager John Farrell. "They are the best in the world at what they do." Showalter said, "It's also going to show how much the umpires care. The game is so fast now, some calls are educated guesses by the umpires. We watch the play three times on slow-motion replay, and we're still not sure if the runner is safe or out. The umpire only got one look at the play in real time."
What plays are not eligible for review?
There are many, most notably the following: