Major League Baseball is testing a proposed replay-review system in five games this week in the Arizona Fall League. One of the benefits to us as fans from this test is that we get five televised games this week on MLB Network; the first one Tuesday night involved Cubs prospects as well. More on that later; first, here's what happened Tuesday night:
After Salt River Rafters second baseman Jacob Wilson backhanded C.J. Cron's leadoff grounder in the top of the second and threw him out, Richardson challenged first-base umpire Barber's call. Plate ump Trip Gibson turned toward the press box, made a box motion with his hands to indicate a TV, the replay official in an onsite trailer reviewed the play from angles provided by MLB Network cameras, relayed his decision into the headset handed by an on-field emissary to Gibson that the play stood. The five-game trial of Major League Baseball's proposed expanded replay system was officially underway, and Barber's judgment was acquitted -- quickly, comfortably under the three-minute limit imposed on replay reviews during these trials. That snappy process was repeated three times -- two more challenges to Barber calls at first, and third-base umpire Pat Hoberg's call that left fielder Tim Wheeler had short-hopped a line drive. All four were upheld after reviews.
Here's some video and commentary on the first of the four reviews:
None of the four plays was particularly controversial, just close -- the exact sort of play that we've all been hoping a review system would get right. It did, although all the four reviews did in this particular game was confirm that the right call was made on the field. That's fine, of course; the point is to get the calls right.
One of the most important things about this particular trial is that none of the reviews took too much time. There was a three-minute limit on any challenges made Tuesday night, and as you can see from the video of the first one, it took maybe 45 seconds to confirm the play on the field. The game announcers pointed out, correctly, that was less time than you might have if a manager came out and argued. The subsequent reviews were about the same length of time and the game took a reasonable two hours, 49 minutes.
As pointed out in the article linked above, the current proposal for review still has a limit of one challenge in the first six innings and two after that. I like the idea of unlimited review -- after all, the point is to get the calls right, and even having four reviews in this first game didn't really slow it down.
The idea of having people on-site, as they did Tuesday night, is another good idea, although probably cost-prohibitive. But the idea of having the umpire put on a headset and talk to someone reviewing the play is likely the way it would work, even if the umpire at a MLB game is talking to someone in a central location. Overall, I thought it worked really well and if they had the system used Tuesday night for regular-season games, I'd think everyone would be happy. Tuesday's game had four reviews, but some games might have none at all. Few games would likely have more than four.
Regarding Cubs prospects' play in Tuesday night's game, we didn't really see much of what we've heard about this fall. Jorge Soler went 0-for-3 and Albert Almora 1-for-4. Pitcher Dallas Beeler gave up seven runs -- all unearned due to some really awful defense behind him. At one point a shot of Beeler showed him grinning after yet another error (Mesa made five, a really bad defensive performance), as if he were thinking, "I'm making my pitches, but they can't field!"
Even though the remaining four games don't involve Cubs prospects, I'm going to post game threads for all of them; I figure some of you will want to watch and check out the review system. Tonight's will post at 7 p.m. CT.