OAKLAND -- A second-inning play at home plate Wednesday brought out the worst that instant replay has to offer.
A’s manager Bob Melvin challenged a close play in which Derek Norris was called out at home plate. A nearly five-minute delay ensued as crew chief Mike Winters listened on his headset to get a decision from New York that eventually upheld the original call.
Fans booed. Cleveland Indians pitcher Corey Kluber squatted on the mound and waited. The game came to a standstill, the sort of delay that Major League Baseball officials swore they didn’t want to see happen.
The inaugural season of instant replay review in baseball is already proving to be equal parts experimental, groundbreaking and tedious.
Former A’s manager Tony La Russa, now a special assistant for MLB, was at the Coliseum on Wednesday and met with Melvin for a long pregame chat. Surely replay was a primary discussion topic.
“The point we made to managers (in initially selling replay) is that you’re paid to make the tough call,” La Russa said before the opener of Wednesday’s doubleheader. “Do you bring your closer in during the eighth inning? Do you guard the line? Do you use your No. 1 pinch hitter in the sixth inning or save him for later? This is just another tough call.”
La Russa said his hope is for most reviews to be completed in less than one minute.
Other points La Russa made:
- If a play goes to review to determine whether a catcher blocked home plate on a close play, replay officials can also overturn the out/safe call on that particular play if they notice the umpire missed the call, even if a manager wasn’t challenging that part of the play.
- Considering that records are being kept on how many calls by each umpire are getting overturned, La Russa was asked if he thought that might have a negative effect on umpires and their ability to do their job. He said no.
“One of the biggest proponents of this replay system were the umpires,” La Russa said, “because if you weigh their scorecard over the embarrassment of getting a wrong call in a key situation, hands-down (they’d take replay).”
- La Russa said it’s “possible” the day comes where every call at home plate goes to an automatic review, similar to how the NFL reviews every turnover and scoring play. But La Russa added the danger would be bogging down the pace of play too much.
How early in a game should a manager exercise his challenge? Giants manager Bruce Bochy burned his -- unsuccessfully -- in the fourth inning Tuesday against Arizona, then was unable to request a replay review later in the inning when it was clear that a wrong call was made at home plate.
Melvin rolled the dice in the second inning Wednesday, and since he did not get the call overturned, he was without a challenge for the rest of the game. Managers get one challenge per game, but if they successfully get a call changed, they receive one extra challenge.
Melvin chuckled when asked before the game if he had a firm grip on all the replay specifics.
“I’m not confident at all that I know everything there is to know about the replay system,” he said. “I think it’s going to be a work in progress anyway. A lot of it is going out to the umpire and asking ‘What are my options?’ … We’ll probably get there at some point in time.”