It happened Sunday during the first inning of the Texas Rangers and Washington Nationals game. There was what is believed to be, according to New York Times columnist Thomas Boswell , the first double challenge in the history of Major League Baseball.
Of course that would really means is that it was a first, just this season as the expanded replay was only put into effect in 2014. The new replay rules allow each manager one challenge per game. If the manager wins the challenge then they may keep the challenge to use anytime before the seventh inning. If they lose the challenge, they are then out of challenges for the remainder of the ballgame. The replays are looked at and a verdict is decided upon by a group of umpires at the MLB Advanced Media headquarters in New York.
In this instance, and it is sure to be very rare, both managers had challenges regarding the outcome of the same play. Here is how Boswell wrote the review of the simultaneous, double instant replay,
“The replay command Fortress of Solitude in New York ruled that Alex Rios of Texas slid inches past second base on a steal and was tagged out by the Nats’Danny Espinosa and that the Rangers’ Elvis Andrus (loafing) had not crossed home plate before the tag for the third out of the inning had been made. The Rangers, challenging whether Rios was really out, lost, while the Nats, claiming a Rangers run should be taken off the board, got the incorrect call changed.”
Shockingly to most, chaos did not ensue. The replay review did not take hours out of the game. It was all done and corrected in just two minutes and 45 seconds. That is pretty amazing! No arguing or fighting just a swift decision that both clubs had to abide by. It is an example of how expanded replay really does work.
Here are few facts about expanded replay as it has been used for the first two full months of the 2014 season. MLB data reported this weekend in Baseball Prospectus tells us some important facts about expanded replay and they all put a positive spin on what some might say isn’t right for the game or that it slows the game down or stops momentum. Anyway you look at it the data collected over the months of April and May have supported the use of expanded replay.
For example, first of all MLB has averaged just one challenge for every two games. Managers are not abusing their challenges. It appears they are using them to question plays that truly do seem to be incorrectly called. Secondly even though in theory, at first, challenges were designed to take no more than 90 seconds they have actually still only averaged two minutes and nine seconds. That is not a bad number considering there are not challenges in every game.
About 50 percent of challenges are over turned and the other half are upheld. Finally, as stated by Boswell in his column,
“maybe most important, the average game is only delayed 1:06 by challenges”
It certainly makes the case that expanded replay has not hurt the game but helped it, by making it more fair. In a time when in other sports there are questionable or subjective calls made by referees that change the course of games, MLB and its umpires seem headed in the right direction. Even what was most likely the first double challenge in MLB history was handled correctly, and in under three minutes, which is definitely a point towards keeping expanded replay in MLB for the foreseeable future.