Baseball's new replay rule: revving up second guesses

Baseball's new replay rule: revving up second guesses
January 17, 2014, 9:30 am
Share This Post

Hall of Fame voter Mark Zuckerman on the 2014 class

Sep 11, 2013; Baltimore, MD, USA; Baltimore Orioles third baseman Manny Machado (13) is unsuccessful in catching a foul ball hit by New York Yankees center fielder Brett Gardner (not shown) in the first inning at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

(Joy R. Absalon-USA TODAY Sports)

With Thursday’s news that baseball is implementing an expanded instant replay/challenge system starting with the 2014 season, Orioles fans can’t help think back to the 1996 American League Championship Series.

Game 1, eighth inning, the Yankees’ Derek Jeter hits a long fly to the wall in right field. Tony Tarasco is on the warning track at Yankee Stadium, waiting for it to come down … and he’s still waiting. The ball disappears into the stands with the help of young Jeffrey Maier’s reach into the field of play and is incorrectly ruled a home run, tying the game.

Ah, but if the new replay rules  had been in effect, O’s manager Davey Johnson would have challenged the call (because, of course, he had saved his one challenge), and the replay umps would have, at the very least, ruled the play a ground-rule double or maybe even called Jeter out.

[RELATED: Here comes replay]

(From baseball Rule 3.16: When there is spectator interference with any thrown or batted ball, the ball shall be dead at the moment of interference and the umpire shall impose such penalties as in his opinion will nullify the act of interference.

APPROVED RULING: If spectator interference clearly prevents a fielder from catching a fly ball, the umpire shall declare the batter out.)

In any case, the Orioles get out of the inning unscathed, then Randy Myers shuts down the Yankees in the ninth. The O’s take a 1-0 lead in the ALCS and who knows what happens from there?

Now, actually, the Jeter-Maier-Tarasco play could have already been reviewed under the replay rules in effect for a few years, but the new rule brings the manager’s challenge into play. You get one per game, or two if your first challenge is successful.

[MORE: Machado's recovery ahead of schedule]

That is one of the fascinating aspects of this new rule. And while managers may be glad to have another tool to employ for winning games, baseball has given media and fans something else to second-guess them on.

Which can only be a good thing for the game, if not for the managers. What is the strategy? Do you save up your challenge for a late-inning play in a tight game? But suppose there is a questionable call in the second inning that you fail to challenge that leads to a big rally and the game never gets tight?  And do you always use your challenge in the first six innings, relying on umpires to initiate replay in the seventh, eighth and ninth?

This should keep the talk shows buzzing all season. Well done, baseball.