The first two games of season for the Cleveland Indians are a good example of why MLB needs to put a little pep in their step with regard to instant replay or have the umpires tell the managers to put a pipe in it.
When Indians manager Terry Francona came out of the dugout on Tuesday’s opener vs. the Oakland Athletics to speak with home plate umpire Mike Winters about the possibility of A’s catcher John Jaso blocking the plate on a play in which Michael Brantley was called out, he did so by the rules, by asking – not telling or arguing with – Winters if he saw the call correctly and if he would take a look it on replay to make sure.
Winters agreed, and it became the first-ever umpire-initiated review. That’s a lot of words to say Winters played by the book — and he shouldn’t have. On Wednesday, Oakland manager Bob Melvin and home plate umpire Mark Wegner did not — should have.
With Oakland’s Derrick Norris on third, Jason Donaldson hit a chopper to third baseman Carlos Santana, who threw to catcher Yan Gomes for the tag. Norris was called out correctly, but Melvin challenged it, saying Norris had reached the plate prior to the tag being applied. The problem is that the play was no longer challengeable and it took too long.
As in the NFL, perhaps the gold standard for instant replay in sports, there is supposed to be a clear point at which a play is no longer challengeable. In football, that is prior to the next play starting. In baseball, the rule book states that the pitcher must be on the rubber and the batter clearly inside the batter’s box. This had all happened by the time Melvin came out to challenge the call.
Replays showed that Indians pitcher Corey Kluber was clearly on the rubber and Oakland batter Donaldson had both feet inside the batter’s box and set, having already taken a few practice swing. MLB officials got the call right, but the crew chief Wegner should have disallowed the replay and told Melvin he couldn’t challenge it since the next play had already begun.
Also, the whole thing took five full minutes, nearly four times as long as MLB says it hopes each review to be. For now, let’s postpone the discussion about how the NFL makes millions of dollars on its perfected replay process by going to commercial and creating genuine anticipation for the fan while baseball fans endure the exciting process of the umpire putting on a headset.
The only pageantry provided in baseball’s schema is the new guy who brings out the headsets. Who even is this guy? Sizzling.
For now, I hope MLB has an oversight plan in place to correct these problems, otherwise, they’ll only endure criticism and lose more viewers. What they should do is encourage the umpires to speed up the process by not allowing unneeded reviews and concentrate on using the rules put in place correctly.