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

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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.

Dustin Fowler is suing the White Sox over an outfield collision

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Tom Schuba of the Chicago Sun-Times reports that Athletics outfielder Dustin Fowler has filed suit against the White Sox for negligence. Fowler sustained a season-ending injury during a collision at Guaranteed Rate Field last June and is also bringing the lawsuit against the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority agency, as neither party took measures to secure the ballpark’s unpadded electrical box that exacerbated his injuries.

The 22-year-old outfielder was just two outs into his major league debut with the Yankees when the incident occurred. Fowler tracked a Jose Abreu foul ball down the first base line and flipped over the short railing. He was noticeably limping after colliding with a knee-high electrical box at the wall and collapsed to the ground within seconds before being carted off the field.

The official diagnosis: a ruptured patellar tendon and season-ending surgery on his right knee. Per Schuba’s report, which can be read here in full, Fowler has claimed “‘severe and permanent’ external and internal injuries, as well as mental pain and anguish” following the collision.

No specific demands have been publicized yet. Fowler is said to be seeking money from both the White Sox and the Sports Facilities Authority, likely enough to cover the “large sums” he spent on medical care for the surgery and related treatments.