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Replay will preserve human element, while getting calls right

Oakland Athletics manager Bob Melvin, left, argues with

Oakland Athletics manager Bob Melvin, left, argues with umpire Angel Hernandez after a review failed to turn a double by Adam Rosales into a home run in the ninth inning. (May 8, 2013) Credit: AP

There will still be room for some Billy Martin-like antics in baseball.

There may not be as many cap flips, ump bumps, dirt kicking or base throwing between managers and umpires if expanded instant replay goes into effect next season – but it won’t be absent from the game all together.

Heading into Friday’s slate, there have been 143 ejections this season – 68 for managers – according to, which keeps stats on ejections each season. Of those, 44 of the calls were deemed “correct” or “irrecusable” after viewing a replay, a mere 64.7 percent.
Not every play, or even incorrect play, will be reviewable going forward, of course.

If the proposed plan is approved in November, managers will be able to challenge one play during the first six innings and two more from the seventh inning on. But occasions such as a hit-by-pitch, balls and strikes and others that have yet to be finalized will remain the domain of umpires.

Which means that managers who are ejected because their pitcher threw at a batter or skippers who argue balls and strikes will still have the opportunity for some theatrics. The “human element” that many who argue against expanded replay fear will be lost should be at least partially preserved.

Five managers have been tossed for a pitcher on their staff throwing at a batter this season and 20 have been ejected for arguing balls and strikes.

But managers like the 20 who were rung up for arguing safe/out calls on the bases or the 23 removed from the game for disputing various other plays (interference, fair/foul calls) this year may be able to maintain their spots in the dugout going forward.

Toronto manager John Gibbons, for instance, may not have gotten tossed during the Yankees game on Thursday for arguing that his centerfielder, Rajai Davis, caught Vernon Wells’ fifth-inning sinking liner. The umpires ruled the play a trap, igniting a confusing play that, nonetheless, allowed the Yankees to take the lead.

After the game, crew chief Ted Barrett admitted the umpires probably got the call wrong. Next season, Gibbons would be able to challenge the play and, instead of an argument, ejection and some degree of embarrassment following the contest, there would be a short review and a correct call.

Far from merely altering the events of an individual game, expanded replay could also alter baseball history going forward. For proof, look no further than some of the blown plays New York squads have benefited from:

- No no-no: Cardinals outfielder Carlos Beltran drove a ball down the left field line in the sixth inning of Johan Santana’s eventual no-hitter on June 1, 2012. Replays showed the ball kicked up chalk and was fair, however, umpires ruled it a foul ball, preserving Santana’s bid. Merely months removed from shoulder surgery, Santana threw 136 pitches in recording the first no-hitter in franchise history. His performance dipped in the starts after, eventually leading to another shoulder surgery and the likely end of his Mets tenure.

- Captain Clutch?: What would have happened had young fan Jeffrey Maier not stuck his glove over the right field wall, catching Derek Jeter’s drive in the eighth inning of 1996 American League Championship Game 1? The Yankees trailed in the game and could have trailed in the series had the play not been ruled a home run. Without that momentum, do the Yankees go on to win the World Series and begin their dynastic run?

- Foul Mauer: With the Twins looking to tie the 2009 American League Division Series at a game apiece, Joe Mauer struck a likely extra-base hit down the left field line in the 11th inning of a tie Game 2. Despite the ball hitting in clear fair territory, the ball was ruled foul. The Twins failed to score during the inning, the Yankees swept the series and went on to win the World Series.

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