The Minnesota Twins and Chicago White Sox each got their first taste of the MLB’s expanded replay system Wednesday, when a questionable ruling was challenged by Twins manager Ron Gardenhire, and eventually overturned. While the ruling itself didn’t directly affect the outcome of the game, it brought to the surface many fears that fans shared concerning the new system prior to this season.
The play in question came in the seventh inning, when Oswaldo Arcia sent a weak line drive to center field. Sox outfielder Adam Eaton charged, and made the routine catch, but dropped the ball while transferring it from glove to throwing hand. Trevor Plouffe, who was occupying first base at the time, hesitated halfway between first and second base, but eventually trotted back to first, realizing an out had been signaled.
After review, which Gardenhire requested, it was determined that Eaton never truly caught the ball. Arcia reached first base safely, via the error, and Plouffe was awarded second base. The Problem?
How can it be guaranteed that Plouffe would have reached second base safely? Just like the NFL cannot determine the projected advancement of an overturned fumble, MLB should not be able to guess what might have happened had the play originally been ruled correctly. In reality, it’s equally as probable that Eaton would have corralled his bobble, and thrown Plouffe out at second base. Plouffe was, after all, retreating back towards first, thinking the play was over.
To further my point, what if Eaton had made a diving catch deeper in the gap, but it was then determined that he trapped the ball. Would Arcia be given just first base, or could it be assumed that he would have hustled down the line and beat out a potential throw at second?
The time taken to determine the ruling was equally as troubling as the decision itself. Umpires spent over six minutes on headsets near the home dugout before announcing their official ruling on the field. This doesn’t include the time Gardenhire spent arguing and requesting the challenge, or the amount of time it took to correctly explain the ruling to White Sox manager Robin Ventura. All in all, the game experienced more than a 10 minute delay in 34-degree temps, which ultimately led to Kevin Correia’s outing being cut short, after tossing just 82 pitches for the Twins.
Only three days into the 2014 regular season, and the new replay system is already showing its true colors. There simply is no place in baseball for an instant replay review system.