When Orioles left fielder Nelson Cruz ran through first base on a close play April 19 at Fenway Park and was called out by first base umpire Ted Barrett, it sparked a chain of events that has become common in the major leagues this season.
After almost one month of the new instant replay system, there have been plenty of praises and criticisms as teams, umpires and Major League Baseball continue to search for the best ways to reach accurate calls using replay.
"I think when it's all said and done, people will like having it in the game," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "I think you'll see more things reviewable next year. I think you'll see some more things get tweaked. We said this in spring training. They told us there are going to be some growing pains. It's like developing a young pitcher. You've got to go through some bumps and grinds to go through the finished product."
While Cruz and Orioles first base coach Wayne Kirby emphatically waved their arms safe on the play in Boston, Showalter strolled out of the third base dugout and Adam Gladstone sat inside the cramped visiting clubhouse, looking through 15 different angles of the play.
He had between 15 to 20 seconds to find an angle worth the Orioles making their first challenge of the season. At that point, the Orioles and St. Louis Cardinals were the two teams yet to challenge a call under the new system.
Among reviewable calls, the play at first base offers some of the best angles available.
And Gladstone — a Pikesville native and former minor league umpire who the club hired to review replays — was confident he found an angle that conclusively showed Cruz's right foot beating Boston Red Sox third baseman Brock Holt's throw to first base.
He relayed that information to bench coach John Russell, who sent Showalter a signal to challenge the call. Less than one minute later — 55 seconds, to be exact — the play was overturned, giving the Orioles the game-tying run on the play.
The Orioles' first and only challenge to this point of the season was quick, efficient, and most importantly, ended with the correct call, which is the ultimate purpose of the new system.
"It's not like it's affecting the outcomes of games," Showalter said. "It's affecting the fairness of the game in a lot more positive manner."
'Help them reach the correct calls'
Heading into Monday, 172 plays had been reviewed in baseball this season.
Seventy-five — nearly 44 percent — have been overturned, another 46 have stood or been ruled inconclusive, and 48 were confirmed, meaning there was clear and convincing evidence that the call was correct. Three others fall under the record-keeping category, which involves counts or outs.
"I think as long as the call is getting right, the team is able to live with the ruling," Orioles catcher Matt Wieters said. "I think it's different than before. A player is thinking about, 'OK, they reviewed it. They had to change the call. We have to live with it that way.' It's actually an easier pill to swallow, even if you're on the losing end, than in years prior. That's the reason replay got put in."
Orioles' opponents are 0-for-4 on challenges so far this season. Of two other plays against the Orioles that were reviewed by umpires' decision, one stood and the other was overturned.
"I think, every day, we continue to use the system, the more we learn how it can serve and benefit getting the calls right," Gladstone said. "We've used what we've done in the first month as education. It's still such a learning process. … When you're home, I certainly know [what angles I'm getting]. MASN has been phenomenal.
"I know what I'm getting with them, but I'm also getting, every night, a different set of angles on the road. So it's not like this is cookie cutter, so every day there are moving parts. It's a part of the learning process."
Gladstone not only has to track every play, but also every pitch.
In a game last week, Tampa Bay Rays shortstop Yunel Escobar struck out after drawing four called balls. The play was reviewed by umpires, and it stood, but Major League Baseball later admitted an error in tracking the count.
"The way I try to look at it is that I'm umpiring the game along with the crew on the field," Gladstone said. "Look, these are four major league umpires. They've been through the wars. They're the best guys in the world. My job is to help them reach the correct calls."