Baseball is a unique sport filled with situations that you may only see once every few years, if at all. Umpires must be prepared to rule on these situations in real time, but we have our own expert to rely upon. Brandon Magee explains why Bryan Price needed to be more decisive when challenging a walk-off double by Yadier Molina.
Baseball has been America’s national pastime for well over a century and a half. Yet it still provides long-time spectators events that they have never seen before – or will again. As baseball fans, we are well aware of the written and unwritten rules that govern the game. And then, there is a slow motion replay.
In a 3-3 game, with two outs In the bottom of the ninth inning and the wild card playoff berth still in the cards for St. Louis, Yadier Molina stepped in to face Cincinnati Reds reliever Blake Wood. With Matt Carpenter on first after a walk, Molina laced a liner down the left field line that bounced over the green outfield wall, ricocheting back into the field of play after hitting an advertising board located directly behind the wall.
Carpenter – who was off at the crack of the bat – raced around the bases and made it home before the relay throw to “win” the game for the Cardinals. However, the third base umpire Scott Barry – who would nominally be in charge of calling the play an automatic double – either missed the ball going over the fence or thought that it actually hit off the top of the fence and stayed in play.
The timing of a call for a replay by the manager is covered in Section II, Article D of the Replay Review Rules. Subsection 1 sets forth the basic time:
Except as otherwise set forth in Sections II.D.2, 3 and 5 below, to be timely, a Manager must exercise his challenge (by verbal communication and/or hand signal to an Umpire), or the Crew Chief must initiate Replay Review (if applicable pursuant to Section II.C above) before the commencement of the next play or pitch.
Largely, this procedural note gives a wider berth to the defensive team to enact a replay challenge, as they are in control of when the next pitch is thrown. The de facto practice is for managers in a potential replay situation to immediately signal to the umpire that they are contemplating a challenge. However, later in the subsection, there is a sentence regarding an end of game situation:
A challenge to a play that ends the game must be invoked immediately upon the conclusion of the play, and both Clubs shall remain in their dugouts until the Replay Official issues his decision.
There is a reason the rule is made with the term immediately, and it is not because MLB does not want to review potential miscues on game winning plays. It is because there is no reason for a team that lost the game to gather information on whether their potential challenge is likely to succeed. In a normal instance, one does not want to lose a challenge if there is a low chance of success. But, when the game is over, that line of thinking is moot. If the manager thinks that there is any possible chance that a review changes the outcome of the game – even if the chance is infinitesimal – they should be out of the dugout as quickly as possible asking for a review. Because there is no more game in which to use your replay challenge.
Bryan Price failed to signal for the replay, and thus played the replay game poorly. Perhaps he did not have a good view of the action on the field. Perhaps he did not see his outfielders protesting. But whatever the reason, he waited until he received confirmation from inside his own dugout that the play should be overturned. By that point, the umpires had already departed the field. The game was well and truly over.
Replay could have changed the results of this game, but we will never know. In this case, the Price was wrong.