MLB Network quietly, without fanfare, added five Arizona Fall League games to its nightly schedule next week, at 8 p.m. CT Tuesday through Friday and 7 p.m. CT Saturday:
Tue. 11/5: Mesa Solar Sox vs. Salt River Rafters at Talking Stick Wed. 11/6: Salt River Rafters vs. Scottsdale Scorpions at Scottsdale Thu. 11/7: Scottsdale Scorpions vs. Salt River Rafters at Talking Stick Fri. 11/8: Glendale Desert Dogs vs. Salt River Rafters at Talking Stick Sat. 11/9: Peoria Javelinas vs. Salt River Rafters at Talking Stick
This is a great thing for those of us who would love to have baseball on TV every day of the year and began missing the game the second the World Series ended. In addition, one of the games involves the Mesa Solar Sox, so you'll be able to see Cubs prospects play (you can also see Kris Bryant, Jorge Soler and Albert Almora Saturday night in the AFL's "Fall Stars Game, and I'll have a game thread posted for that later today, and will post game threads for each of the five games next week). All told, five of the six teams in the AFL will be shown, so you can watch prospects from 25 of the 30 teams.
This isn't being done just to show you baseball on television, though, and I learned the reason for this five-day treat in a MLB press release late Friday:
New review procedures for expanded instant replay will be game-tested during play at the Arizona Fall League (AFL) in five games that will be televised live on MLB Network from Tuesday, November 5th through Saturday, November 9th, Major League Baseball announced today. AFL Umpires will be assigned to the games, which will be observed by select MLB officials and Major League Umpires. Plays in AFL games will be called and challenged under the protocols of the newly designed instant replay plan that is now under consideration. Major League Baseball is currently studying the expansion of instant replay for 2014, with the efforts led by Atlanta Braves President John Schuerholz, MLB Executive Vice President Joe Torre and Special Assistant to the Commissioner Tony La Russa. Once a recommendation on the new system for instant replay has been finalized, it will be subject to the approval of the Major League Clubs and the agreement of the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA) and the World Umpires Association (WUA). "The opportunity to test our ideas under game conditions with future Major Leaguers will be an important next step," Schuerholz said. "We look forward to examining new perspectives generated by play on the field and learning what modifications might prove beneficial before our committee issues our formal recommendation later this off-season."
All credit to MLB here. This will give them an excellent test of the proposed replay system under actual game conditions. From what Schuerholz said in the release, it does seem as if they'll be open to changes in the proposed "challenge" system before they institute the system for the 2014 season. I've mentioned here before the potential problems with such a system; perhaps MLB will come up with some changes to make it better.
So, look forward to watching baseball again next week, and hope they have quite a few reviewable plays.