Major League Baseball will expand its video review process next season. More plays will be subject to review. Managers will be allowed up to three challenges each game.
Manager Buck Showalter has been too busy to give the changes a thorough examination, but he had a few quick impressions. He wonders why only one challenge is allowed through the first six innings. Is MLB suggesting that those innings aren’t as important as the seventh through the ninth? And I sense that he’d like for balls and strikes to be reviewable. After all, aren’t most of the disputes centered on the strike zone?
“Don’t get me wrong, you’ve got to start somewhere,” he said. “It’s going to be better than it was. It improves our game. It think it improves it for the fans.
“It’s kind of like the wild card and different things. By gosh, why didn’t we do this before? I think that’s what we’ll see. I know Joe Torre and Tony LaRussa and people who’ve worked with them have put a lot of time in. I know talking to us as a coaching staff, we’ve had input the past couple of springs. I knew the capability they had. They can take it as far as you want to take it. When you have to watch a replay three times to see if it’s right or wrong, it shows you the challenge they have. I can’t imagine a harder sport to umpire or officiate.
“That’s why a lot of times I give them a lot of leeway, because I know just how hard it was. The only time it gets me sideways is when it gets a little emotional or vindictive with some things. That doesn’t happen as often as it used to. You’re eliminating a lot of arguments and calling three or four guys together.”
The big concern among fans is that the reviews will slow down the game, just as MLB continues to seek ways to pick up the pace. Showalter believes it will have the opposite effect. For instance, Showalter won’t need to run on the field to argue a call. He can simply ask for a review. And umpires won’t need to huddle on the field while trying to get it right.
“I think you’d be surprised at how little delay there actually is,” Showalter said. “There’ll be some problems. They haven’t sat down and talked to us and shouldn’t, because it actually isn’t until next year.
“It’s a good start. It’s a good start. I think you’ll only see it get tweaked and better. I guarantee if you look back at the NFL, I bet they’ve tweaked some things through the years.
“We always want it to happen now, yesterday. The more you sit in those meetings, you understand. They’ve thought this through. This isn’t something they’ve pulled out of the air. The bottom line: they’re trying to make our game better, more enjoyable for the fans and more enjoyable for the coaching staff and the players and the umpires. They want to get everything right. They do, and it’s a tough job. They face an adversity that we can help them stay away from. They don’t want to be part of the game. They want the players to decide the game.”
Has he met Joe West?
Though Showalter defended the umpires, I wonder if his generosity extends to Angel Hernandez, CB Bucknor, Laz Diaz, Gary Darling... Well, it’s a long roll call.
“They’re part of our game and I’d like to see how to make their job easier,” Showalter said of the umpires. And he meant all of them.
“I don’t want an argument where I have no argument,” he continued. “I want to have some credibility with the guys and save the fans some time, so most of the time, unless it’s real quick, I have an idea whether I’m right or wrong.”
Shameless plug alert: I’m appearing on “Wall to Wall Baseball” from noon to 2 p.m. on MASN.