Through 20 challenges this preseason, Major League Baseball’s newly-implemented replay system has done nothing more than verify the accuracy of the calls made on the field. That is, until Tuesday, when it proved the umpire wrong.
The contested play happened in the eighth inning, with the bases loaded and one out. Anaheim was leading the game 5-3. Angels shortstop Tommy Field flipped a grounder to second baseman Andrew Romine. Romine looked to turn a double-play, but dropped the ball on the attempt, earning only the force out at second.
Seattle manager Lloyd McClendon challenged the call. A review determined that Romine didn’t have possession of the ball at the time and awarded the base to the runner. Seattle went on to score three in the inning, giving them a 6-5 lead – a lead they would hang on to, ultimately winning 10-6.
Here’s how the process worked, via the Seattle Times:
McClendon went out and told Whitson and the rest of the umpiring crew that he was challenging the call. Umpire in chief Dale Scott went to the headset and notified fellow umpire Kerwin Danley, who was in the replay truck. After quick review, Danley reversed Whitson’s call, Smith was ruled safe at second and a run scored on the play. The whole thing took just over two minutes, and it helped change the game.
Anaheim manager Mike Scioscia spoke with the officiating crew after the game to better understand the reason for the reversal. From the LA Times:
“To transfer, it’s got to be a catch. The ball has to get into your bare hand cleanly and be cleared before they’re going to consider it a transfer,” Scioscia said. “I didn’t see the replay, but they ruled the ball was dropped and not in possession. So that’s one thing that will probably be called a little tighter.
“Before, it was called loosely. If you had the ball in your glove and you moved your glove to get it to your hand, it was called an out. That’s going to change the mechanics of how you turn a double play. A lot of guys are adept at closing their glove and flipping it into their hand for a quick transfer. If there’s a bobble on that, it’s going to be called safe.”
Video replay will be changing the way calls are made, and – seeing this reversal – likely fine tune the mechanics of how the game is played. Teams would be wise to work on that double-play exchange that, in the past, was a gimme.