I have been complaining about replay challenges slowing down baseball longer than just about any other fan. And I am not just saying that as a figure of speech.
Find a video of the first game when the then-experimental replay challenge was used in the Arizona Fall League game on November 5, 2013 (MLB Network broadcasted the game, so I am guessing video exits).
In the second inning, Mesa Solar Sox manager Bill Richardson challenged the call on a force out at first base.
There were only 800 or so people at Talking Stick park. My friend Mike and I were sitting down in front. If you watch the video, I will bet you can hear the two of us immediately yelling “This is taking too long!” and “Don’t let a machine do your job!”
We weren’t against replay. But, hey, it’s fun to act like a teenage jerk sometimes, even when you are in your 50s.
And teenage jerks — or older versions of them — can make a point. Replay slows down the game.
Yeah, it’s worth it to get it right, but anything that would eliminate unneeded delays would be welcome.
And a lot of unneeded replay reviews come on force outs at first base, one of the most common fielding plays.
But I have a solution, one of three straight-forward ideas where Major League Baseball could employ high technology and improve the game.
Solution No. 1
The bang-bang play at first is a difficult one for the umpires. They can’t see the ball being caught and the batter/runner’s foot at first at the same time. So they rely on listening for when the foot hits the base. It is easy to get wrong.
I propose that MLB introduce a sensor on top of the base that detects when the foot hits and triggers a light.
This would not eliminate all challenges on this kind of play, but it could aid the umpire. The team’s video guy checking to see if the manager should challenge would have a better idea — and arrive at it faster. Managers likely would raise fewer futile challenges.
In the event of a challenge, the people in New York reviewing the play might find it helpful.
Solution No. 2
How many times does this happen? There is one out and a runner on first, the second baseman fields a grounder, and it looks like an easy, inning-ending double play. Then he tosses it to the shortstop who steps on second, but he loses the handle on the ball before he can throw to first. The batter/runner is safe. A rally ensues.
Under the current scoring rules, the official scorer can’t assume a double play would have been turned, so there is no error for the shortstop. The poor pitcher is saddled with a bunch of unearned runs.
But now, with the miracle of Amazon Statcast, we can know with a higher degree of certainty the likelihood that the batter/runner would have been out.
Time to update the scoring rules, use that high-tech, and give blame where it is due: Give the shortstop an error.
Solution No. 3
Joe Girardi came up with this last one in his current role as a talking head on MLB Network. He proposes equipping players with earphones to speed up the game.
This would cut down on mound visits to change signs, eliminate batters stepping out of the box to get a sign, and catchers going through the signs several times.
Sadly, the art of stealing signs would die, a small price to pay.
Girardi pointed out that modern players walk around the clubhouse wearing earbuds all the time, so they should be comfortable having something in their ear.
Some sort of speaker would have to be built into the batters’ helmets and catchers’ headgear.
As in the National Football League, communication would have to be cut off before the ball is in play.