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Bud Black’s attempted replay challenge deemed “untimely” — which is kind of absurd

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Bud Black tried to use a replay challenge in last night’s Dodgers-Padres game. It came in the first inning when Yasiel Puig laid down a sacrifice bunt (he’s always giving himself up for the good of his team; just a standup, selfless guy he is) and reached when Padres pitcher Tyson Ross’ throw pulled Yonder Alonso off the bag. Puig’s called safe.

Black — after talking to his coach who is on a phone, presumably with a Padres replay assistant — walks out to challenge. The umpires convene for a second and then decide that the replay challenge was not issued quickly enough. Under the rules, you see, the manager must “immediately” inform the crew chief if he plans to challenge the play. Black’s challenge was not “immediate.” Which I won’t dispute, as the pitcher had taken the rubber and the batter had entered the batters box. The Padres’ catcher had even gone out to the mound to talk to the pitcher to buy some time.

Ss we’ve seen in the first few games of the season, however, managers have taken to popping out of the dugout pretty immediately on challenge plays, yet take their sweet time in actually saying they want to challenge. They do this so that their replay assistants can review the play and let them know whether it’s worth using the challenge. Someone flashes the manager a thumbs-up or thumbs-down or something as he’s killing time. That’s why the batter isn’t in the batter’s box and the pitcher hasn’t taken the rubber in so-called “timely” challenges. A manager is on the field. It’s just as much of a delay in that situation as Black’s delay here. One is allowed, one is not.

As for this challenge: they don’t have the video clip of it up on MLB.com, but I just watched it on MLB.tv and, for what it’s worth, the play was pretty darn close. Many times a game the umpire will call the runner out when the fielder’s foot is off the bag in the same fashion Yonder Alonso’s foot was off the bag here:

source:

It’s sort of a mini-neighborhood play for first baseman. The difference here was that Alonso was leaning to reach for the ball, not just moving his foot a bit early in a casual fashion like you see many first basemen do, so it’s more likely that umpires will look more closely at the footwork. I get that.

But I also get the absurdity of all of this. A clear takeaway is that managers are incentivized to get out onto the field fast and delay things while their staff deliberates challenges. If you do what Bud Black apparently did and wait to know if you want to use a challenge before issuing it, you’re out of luck because you are deemed to have delayed things unnecessarily.

Which, in this case, was determined only after a long delay occasioned by an umpires meeting in which whether Black delayed things too much was discussed.

Rob Manfred on robot umps: “In general, I would be a keep-the-human-element-in-the-game guy.”

KANSAS CITY, MO - APRIL 5:  Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred talks with media prior to a game between the New York Mets and Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium on April 5, 2016 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
Ed Zurga/Getty Images
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Craig covered the bulk of Rob Manfred’s quotes from earlier. The commissioner was asked about robot umpires and he’s not a fan. Via Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports:

Manfred was wrong to blame the player’s union’s “lack of cooperation” on proposed rule changes, but he’s right about robot umps and the strike zone. The obvious point is that robot umps cannot yet call balls and strikes with greater accuracy than umpires. Those strike zone Twitter accounts, such as this, are sometimes hilariously wrong. Even the strike zone graphics used on television are incorrect and unfortunate percentage of the time.

The first issue to consider about robot umps is taking jobs away from people. There are 99 umps and more in the minors. If robot umpiring was adopted in collegiate baseball, as well as the independent leagues, that’s even more umpires out of work. Is it worth it for an extra one or two percent improvement in accuracy?

Personally, the fallibility of the umpires adds more intrigue to baseball games. There’s strategy involved, as each umpire has tendencies which teams can strategize against. For instance, an umpire with a more generous-than-average strike zone on the outer portion of the plate might entice a pitcher to pepper that area with more sliders than he would otherwise throw. Hitters, knowing an umpire with a smaller strike zone is behind the dish, may take more pitches in an attempt to draw a walk. Or, knowing that information, a hitter may swing for the fences on a 3-0 pitch knowing the pitcher has to throw in a very specific area to guarantee a strike call or else give up a walk.

The umpires make their mistakes in random fashion, so it adds a chaotic, unpredictable element to the game as well. It feels bad when one of those calls goes against your team, but fans often forget the myriad calls that previously went in their teams’ favor. The mistakes will mostly even out in the end.

I haven’t had the opportunity to say this often, but Rob Manfred is right in this instance.

Report: MLB approves new rule allowing a dugout signal for an intentional walk

CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 29:  MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred laughs during a ceremony naming the 2016 winners of the Mariano Rivera American League Reliever of the Year Award and the Trevor Hoffman National League Reliever of the Year Award before Game Four of the 2016 World Series between the Chicago Cubs and the Cleveland Indians at Wrigley Field on October 29, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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ESPN’s Howard Bryant is reporting that Major League Baseball has approved a rule allowing for a dugout signal for an intentional walk. In other words, baseball is allowing automatic intentional walks. Bryant adds that this rule will be effective for the 2017 season.

MLB has been trying, particularly this month, to improve the pace of play. Getting rid of the formality of throwing four pitches wide of the strike zone will save a minute or two for each intentional walk. There were 932 of them across 2,428 games last season, an average of one intentional walk every 2.6 games. It’s not the biggest improvement, but it’s something at least.

Earlier, Commissioner Rob Manfred was upset with the players’ union’s “lack of cooperation.” Perhaps his public criticism was the catalyst for getting this rule passed.

Unfortunately, getting rid of the intentional walk formality will eradicate the chance of seeing any more moments like this: