Tuesday night’s Giants/Diambondbacks game in the desert gave us our first major issue with baseball’s new replay challenge system. The gist of it: A.J. Pollock appeared to make a pair of outs on the basepaths in the fourth inning — only to be ruled safe each time. The D’backs overturned an early 4-0 deficit and won 5-4.
With two outs in the fourth Matt Cain appeared to pick off Pollock at first base. The tag from Brandon Belt looked like it got Pollock but umpire Chris Guccione called him safe. Giants manager Bruce Bochy decided to challenge the play under the rationale that it would be the third out of the inning. The play was upheld by the replay official in New York due to a lack of conclusive video evidence, so Bochy lost ability to challenge further plays.
The challenge ended up costing the Giants a run since later in the inning Pollock “scored” on a wild pitch, although again it appeared the tag of Cain beat him to the plate. “He was out,” Cain said. “I had him.” As you can see in the GIF above Pollock’s foot clearly knocks into Cain’s glove. It’s hard to fathom how home plate umpire Eric Cooper missed the call.
Bochy was diplomatic after the game, emphasizing it’s only the second game of the season and tweaks in the replay system will have to work themselves out.
“That’s what you call a hang with ’em,” Bochy said. “You can’t do anything at that point because you’ve already lost your challenge. This is how the system works and you understand that. Would I have changed anything? No. You don’t know whether you’re going to get another call when you wish you could challenge.”
Through the first few days of the regular season the replay system appeared to be working fine. Even with the snafu at Chase Field last year the sample size remains too small for declarative judgments, one way or another. If a steady stream of decisions like the one in Arizona continue to crop up, i.e. managers losing challenges on bad calls upheld by replay, baseball might have to tweak the rules in the offseason.
Everyone is still figuring out how this is going to work and expecting the system to be perfect on April 1 might be a little too optimistic. A wait-and-see approach, for once, might not be the worst idea.
One thing is fairly certain: even with the aid of replay to bail them out, umpires are still missing a decent amount of calls. The human element’s survival instinct is tougher than we all anticipated.