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Williams curious about new replay challenge system

Feb 19, 2014, 5:58 PM EST


VIERA, Fla. — Though final details have yet to be revealed by Major League Baseball, Matt Williams is curious to see how the sport’s new replay system will be utilized, with the Nationals manager expecting to be able to consult via phone with another team employee who will watch games on television and help decide whether to challenge a missed call or not.

“We’ll have the ability, both home and road, to have a direct line to the dugout and be able to evaluate a play, look at it and have somebody let us know what their thoughts are,” Williams said Wednesday. “Every team will have that. It’s a question of who that is.”

For the first time this season, MLB is letting managers challenge potential missed calls across a wide spectrum of plays, just about everything other than balls and strikes.

Final details will be announced later this spring, but the new rule allows each manager to challenge one call per game, with umpires in a command center in New York making the ultimate decision. If a call is overturned, the manager gets one more challenge. Additionally, the umpires themselves can seek a review on any unchallenged calls from the seventh inning on.

League officials will be traveling around to every spring training camp for seminars with teams on the particulars of the new system, and challenges will be allowed in some Grapefruit and Cactus league games that are televised.

Williams’ understanding is that all MLB dugouts will be equipped with a direct phone line to someone else in the organization, who will be watching on TV and make a recommendation, similar to how some NFL teams make challenge decisions.

“We’ll confirm that when we go [meet with league officials] and make sure that that is in fact the case,” Williams said. “But that’s what we’ve been informed so far, that we will have the ability to have somebody look at it and evaluate whether we want to challenge or not.”

As a first-time manager, Williams has plenty to learn. But he views the new challenge system as something of an advantage for him.

“I look at it this way: I’m not the only rookie this year in that regard,” he said. “There’s guys that have managed a long time. They’re in the same boat I am now.”

  1. Candide - Feb 19, 2014 at 6:26 PM

    Just wondering how your Earl Weaver types would deal with this. Manager charges screaming onto the field and ump quietly tells him to either challenge the call or get back in the dugout. Might make for a lot fewer of those ever-entertaining managerial explosions.

    • ArVAFan - Feb 19, 2014 at 6:30 PM

      Actually, now the manager will come screaming out of the dugout in the seventh inning or later yelling for the umpire to use one of their own challenges. Will change the dynamic a bit, but it seems as if there will still be an opportunity for managerial explosions.

    • wadelefler556 - Feb 20, 2014 at 5:22 PM

      I don’t like Instant Replay…I think it, over time, erodes the authority of the officials on the field and eventually leads to television appointed “refs” to decide games. The “we just want to get it right” speech holds no water because stats don’t exist on how many calls umps/officials actually get wrong…it isn’t many, and not enough, in my opinion, to warrant such an intrusion into the game…just my opinion…

      -Lefler556 “the man who went 5 for 8 and got the Nats into the World Series”

  2. Faraz Shaikh - Feb 19, 2014 at 6:26 PM

    it is hard for me to keep up with all the stories, but keep them coming. Thanks, Mark!

  3. ArVAFan - Feb 19, 2014 at 6:29 PM

    When I had my chat with an umpire last year, he was curious, too: about what the consequences of a reversed call would be. He said the umpires are all in favor of getting the calls right: their questions related to (1) the exact logistics of the challenges and who would make the final calls (sounds as if that has been worked out) and (2) what would happen if various sorts of calls are overturned. Home runs were easy compared to safe/out (what happens to the other runners if a call is reversed?) or trapped vs. caught in the outfield?

    Has anyone heard about that aspect of the new system?

    PS Thanks for all the good feedback on my “notes from Viera.” Hope to do that again next year (looks as if it will be Viera next year–seems unlikely that they’d be able to get a stadium deal and a renovation done that quickly). Tried to record aspects of the experience that wouldn’t duplicate Mark’s (or other’s) real reporting.

    • Candide - Feb 19, 2014 at 7:37 PM

      I know this has been commented on before, but will replay end the “neighborhood play” where the guy can record the out at second by just being somewhere near the bag with the ball when he throws to first to complete the DP. It’s the only play where you can do that; runners are called safe at first every day when the throw pulls the first baseman off the bag, and runners are called safe all the time at third and home when they beat the throw by a fraction of an inch.

      On the one hand, you want to see the rule enforced at all the bases. On the other, you don’t want to see someone get seriously injured by a runner sliding into him. MLB is changing the rules for home plate collisions, so…

      • David Proctor - Feb 19, 2014 at 8:01 PM

        The neighborhood play is non-reviewable.

      • Section 222 - Feb 19, 2014 at 8:22 PM

        I’ve heard it’s non-reviewable too, and I don’t understand it. The only force play where you won’t be able to look at the replay to see if the fielder was actually on the base when he caught the ball is the one play where it happens most often that the fielder is off the base. — not because he’s trying to avoid getting hurt (runners slide hard into home and third too when there’s a force play) but because he’s trying to make sure he can convert the double play. That just doesn’t seem right.

    • Sonny G 10 - Feb 20, 2014 at 12:06 AM

      You did a great job ArVAFan in providing a different perspective re Mark. Will look forward to any additional post you are able to do, either this year or next year. Thank you for the entertainment!!

  4. Chazz - Feb 19, 2014 at 8:47 PM

    Of course, turning a double play, which can happen at any base but preponderatingly occurs at second, leaves a defender pretty much defenseless to a hard take-out, much more than, say, a catcher (in gear) bracing for a collision, or a fielder at any base on a play there, usually. So you can either forbid a runner to initiate contact, as they do at a lot of levels, or you can allow the fielder some way to protect himself, e.g., get out of the way, by the “vicinity” rule. Or, you accept that players will suffer more injuries as a result.

    Shortstops are often the most athletic players, and they are not going to get much better at ballet than they are now, I think. So I don’t think making them play chicken several times a week has many advantages.

    • unkyd59 - Feb 19, 2014 at 9:23 PM


    • Section 222 - Feb 19, 2014 at 10:08 PM

      I guess I understand what you are saying, but you seem to assume that the defense is entitled to turn a double play on every grounder where there’s a man on base. I just don’t buy that. Maybe infielders should just take the force play if they don’t have time to turn a double play while actually, legally, forcing the runner out. And if a runner sliding fairly and legally into second breaks up a double play so be it. I don’t understand why we have to come up with vicinity or neighborhood rules in order to assist the turning of the double play. Not every grounder with a man on should be a double play. If you can’t turn it, you can’t turn it.

      • Chazz - Feb 20, 2014 at 11:15 AM

        A fair point. And if MLB stopped calling the vicinity play at second, players would have to adjust, I suppose, much as Harper is “adjusting” by not crashing into walls so often. Offense would probably increase, along with the injuries, and the inevitable retaliations. So there’s that.

        I may be reacting to a particularly nasty multiple compound fracture I witnessed on such a play. Worse than when Kearns ran into Nick Johnson. Really scary.

      • cvillegoodtimes - Feb 20, 2014 at 3:42 PM

        I wonder when “hard slides” will be outlawed. I know professional sports are getting more and more worried about concussions. But getting cleated is also a problem. I have never understood why a “hard slide” into second where you are intentionally trying to hurt/disrupt the MI instead of trying to get a safe call is considered legitimate.

  5. Eugene in Oregon - Feb 19, 2014 at 9:57 PM

    So, MBLTR is citing Thomas Boswell to the effect that Ian Desmond turned down a seven-year, $85-90 million extension. Which probably makes sense.

    • David Proctor - Feb 19, 2014 at 10:27 PM

      Desmond was not pleased that that report got out, though he never flatly denied it. But really, a 90M extension comes out to a 14.5M AAV in his free agency years. We all knew that wouldn’t get it done.

      • Eugene in Oregon - Feb 19, 2014 at 10:53 PM


      • JayB - Feb 20, 2014 at 5:18 AM

        The money numbers are inflating so fast as are the revenue numbers for all teams. Not sure what the AAV number is anymore that represents value to a time. What I do know is that Ian D needs to get paid market value and be a NAT for the next 5-7 years.

      • cvillegoodtimes - Feb 20, 2014 at 3:41 PM

        and hate that Desmond didn’t like that it got out. Club needs to be doing everything it can to keep him happy and get him locked up. He is too important and too good.

  6. Eugene in Oregon - Feb 19, 2014 at 10:21 PM

    Jason Parks, of Baseball Prospectus, will apparently be posting a very positive report on Lucas Giolito in the next couple of days:





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