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:
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.