Former chief of the umpires loves replay, hates challenge systems

14 Comments

I now have a man-crush on Mike Port, who served as Major League Baseball’s vice president in charge of umpiring between 2005 and 2011.  He spoke with Jayson Stark of ESPN about replay. The two big takeaways: (a) he thinks replay has to happen now and really should have happened already; and (b) challenge systems are dumb:

A challenge system? Why?

“What is the point of replay,” he wondered, pointedly, “if not to get all calls correct? … I think a challenge system would lead to unbelievable confusion and would miss the point of instituting replay. You would be amazed how many managers, coaches, and players are not conversant with the rules … As a basic premise, if the purpose of replay is to get calls correct … then let’s try to get ALL correct within certain categories.”

Great points, which we’ve made many times here.  If you want to correct errors, correct errors. Don’t make a game out of it.

Port goes on at length about how Major League Baseball has so far addressed the replay situation. Suffice it to say, he find their approach quite curious.

A good read and a lot of good thoughts from a man who both knows the system and wants to see it improved.  Check it out.

Why Ryan Zimmerman skipped spring training

Getty Images
Leave a comment

All spring training there was at least some mild confusion about Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman. He played in almost no regular big league spring training games, instead, staying on the back fields, playing in simulated and minor league contests. When that usually happens, it’s because a player is rehabbing or even hiding an injury, but the Nats insisted that was not the case with Zimmerman. Not everyone believed it. I, for one, was skeptical.

The skepticism was unwarranted, as Zimmerman answered the bell for Opening Day and has played all season. As Jared Diamond of the Wall Street Journal writes today, it was all by design. He skipped spring training because he doesn’t like it and because he thinks it’ll help him avoid late-season injuries and slowdowns, the likes of which he has suffered over the years.

It’s hard to really judge this now, of course. On the one hand Zimmerman has started really slow this season. What’s more, he has started to show signs of warming up only in the past week, after getting almost as many big league, full-speed plate appearances under his belt as a normal spring training would’ve given him. On the other hand, April is his worst month across his entire 14-year career, so one slow April doesn’t really prove anything and, again, Zimmerman and the Nats will consider this a success if he’s healthy and productive in August and September.

It is sort of a missed opportunity, though. Players hate spring training. They really do. if Zimmerman had made a big deal out of skipping it and came out raking this month, I bet a lot more teams would be amenable to letting a veteran or three take it much more easy next spring. Good ideas can be good ideas even if they don’t produce immediately obvious results, but baseball tends to encourage a copycat culture only when someone can point to a stat line or to standings as justification.

Way to ruin it for everyone, Ryan. 😉