SEATTLE – Before the Orioles' 4-3 loss to the Seattle Mariners on Saturday afternoon, manager Buck Showalter talked about the merits of baseball’s expanded replay system.
With the season past the 100-game mark, we've all seen the positives and negatives of the system, and they both have been on display during this weekend's series in Seattle.
Friday night’s game ended when Showalter challenged a safe call at first base with two outs in the bottom of the 10th inning, and it was overturned, throwing the hometown fans at Safeco Field into a tizzy.
With two outs in the inning, closer Zach Britton fielded a grounder in front of the mound off the bat of Robinson Cano. His throw to first base pulled Chris Davis off the bag, but it was unclear whether Davis had possession of the ball before his foot came off. The initial call was safe, but with it being so late in the game and the Orioles with a 2-1 lead, Showalter had nothing to lose by challenging the call.
Replays showed the ball in Davis’ glove and his foot on the bag at the same time.
“Could you imagine last night in a Game 7 and that wasn’t available,” Showalter said. “And the next guy hits a home run and replay is able to show that he was out. I think the umpires in general … their demeanor, the only thing they [have to worry about] is balls and strikes.
"When I used to referee college basketball, my big thing was that I wanted to walk off the court and nobody know who I was and know that I didn’t affect anything. I let the players win or lose the game. When you have to see a replay four or five times, they’re educated guesses. There’s no way the human eye can watch [whether] Chris caught the ball and was his foot on the bag? You can’t do it. It’s impossible.”
Fast forward to Saturday’s game, when the Orioles contested that Kendrys Morales swung at a pitch from Bud Norris that hit him with the bases loaded in a scoreless game in the third inning.
The hit batter scored the Mariners' first run of the game and fueled a three-run inning for the Seattle off Norris.
“I don’t want to say too much about it because it happened and I didn’t get the call,” Norris said after the game. “When I’m trying to execute that pitch, and I’m ahead in the count in a situation with the bases loaded, I’m trying a back-foot slider there, and I got a swing, even when I went back to look at it here. Unfortunately, it would have changed the situation in the entire inning for our team and so forth, but they got the call.”
While whether a batter it hit by a pitch can be reviewed, check swing calls can’t.
“I think the swing that wasn’t called on the hit by pitch, hurt [Norris] a little bit, maybe lost some concentration, but I don't know,” Showalter said. “He made a good pitch there, and we didn't get the call. Pretty obvious he swung.”
Showalter asked for a crew-chief review to confirm that Morales was hit by the pitch and in the process look at the check-swing call, but he wasn’t given that request.
“Why couldn’t you look at if he was hit-by-pitch or not and then see if he swung, which he obviously did,” Showalter said. “It doesn't work that way, so it’s kind of inconsistent. But I think he knew that.”
While Showalter said that replay has been a step forward in ultimately getting calls right, he predicted that there will be more expansion of the replay system to include more situations.
“I think you’ll see it expanded,” Showalter said. “Like if you can review a hit by pitch, why can’t you review whether or not a foul tip hit the ground before the catcher caught the ball. How do you differentiate between the two, or catcher’s interference?
“I think we’ll all step back from our perspective on the field when the whole thing’s over. We’ve all got little tweaks and suggestions, and we knew that. Joe Torre has called, and we’ve talked, he, [bench coach] John [Russell] and I, and I think [video replay coordinator] Adam [Gladstone] is in the room. We keep a running list of things that have been challenges and things we might need to think about from our perspective and they take them all in."