If replay is expanded, it can’t have a challenge system


Howard Bryant has an article in ESPN the Magazine about expanded replay and some of its potential worrisome unintended consequences.  It’s a good piece, noting the untenable nature of the league’s traditional insistence that it always has and always will survive blown calls.  It also has an interesting quote from Tony La Russa — Bud Selig’s point man on these sorts of matters — which puts lie to the idea Selig keeps floating about how no one really cares about replay. Seems, per Mr. La Russa, that they do.

The general upshot, though, surrounds how problematic it would be to implement a challenge system, noting that in other sports such as tennis — with which Bryant is intimately familiar — challenge systems create some altogether new problems, such as umpires afraid of overruling the line judges and then, themselves, being overruled by a challenge.

I asked Bryant on Twitter about why he assumes a challenge system and he said that he doesn’t personally, but that a challenge system is what Major League Baseball officials are talking about.  I really hope that’s not the league’s focus, because a challenge system seems like the worst possible option. Both for the reasons Bryant notes in his article and because it would do maximum damage to the game flow that MLB itself seems most interested in preventing.  Fixing one problem — blown calls — should neither create more nor fundamentally change baseball strategy, which would certainly happen. Give a manager a lever, he’s gonna pull it.

The only workable option for a rigorous and useful replay system would be to have the umpires manage it themselves as a closed system. Put a fifth ump in the booth and make him a full member of the umpiring crew. Have him be the eye in the sky who is only heard from if he sees something his colleagues missed.  Make it explicit that umpires will not be penalized or judged harshly by the league for getting initial calls wrong or being overturned by replay.

The most important thing is to make replay a tool for the umpires to do a better job, not a threat that risks exposing them when they do a poor one.

A’s sign Brett Anderson to a minor league deal

Getty Images

Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reports that the Oakland Athletics have agreed to a minor league contract with Brett Anderson.

Anderson, you’ll likely recall, began his major league career with the Athletics in 2009 and pitched for Oakland through 2013. He had some success in Oakland, being named the Opening Day starter one year, but injuries have mounted for the lefty over the years. The last season in which he was healthy all year was 2015 in which he made 31 starts for the Dodgers. Last year he posted a 6.34 ERA and a 38/21 K/BB ratio in 55.1 innings across 13 starts for the Cubs and Blue Jays.

Organizational depth at worst, a veteran arm to eat some innings if things go well and a potential midseason trade chip if he enjoys a resurgence of health and a little bit of luck.