Mar 3, 2014; Fort Myers, FL, USA; Umpires speak to the replay official after the Toronto Blue Jays manager John Gibbons challenges a play call at first base during the sixth inning of the game against the Minnesota Twins at Hammond Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports
With a game against the Minnesota Twins at Hammond Stadium in Fort Myers, the Toronto Blue Jays had their first chance to play with the brand new toy; Major League Baseball’s new instant replay rule. With two outs in the bottom of the sixth inning, John Gibbons received a chance to take it out for a test drive.
It all went down with runners a man on second base. Twins outfielder Chris Rahl rolled a ball up the middle that Blue Jays shortstop Munenori Kawasaki picked cleanly. However, the throw was Kawasaki sailed on him a bit and umpire Fieldin Culbreth ruled that first baseman Jared Goedert was pulled off the bag. When they ruled Rahl safe on the play, Gibbons saw his opportunity.
After a two-plus minute review, the play was upheld after replay clearly showed Goedert’s foot coming off of the bag and not coming back down until the runner was already on the base.
Under the new rules, a manager gets one challenge per game to dispute border calls, fan interference, force and tag plays. If a manager wins the challenge, he receives a second challenge, but no more than two per game. Once the game reaches the seventh inning, the crew chief can review any play that fits under the same purview without the need for a manager to use theirs.
By exercising his in the sixth, Gibbons made the right call to challenge a close play that could have gotten the Blue Jays out of the inning. At that stage of the game, he has nothing to lose, with a challenge in the pocket being basically meaningless after that inning is completed.
The good news is that the length of time to decide the call was limited to just two minutes of play. In retrospect, conversations and arguments with umpires have taken longer to resolve than did a full review to get the call right.
The call went against the Blue Jays today, but ultimately, it looks like a win for Major League Baseball.