JFtC presents the MLB Minute, a look around the greatest game on Earth. This week, umpires being heard and a different schedule
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* Major League Baseball announced on Friday that umpire crews will now make in-stadium announcements to explain decisions reached during the replay process. “We’re pleased to launch this enhancement to the ballpark and broadcast experiences. Training has been held in Arizona and Florida this spring,” the league release stated.
MLB has utilized limited instant replay to confirm select umpire decisions since 2008. When replay is used, the crew chief and umpire that made the original call get on the headset to discuss the play with MLB’s Central Review Office, which makes all decisions. The umpire then makes the appropriate signal (safe or out, fair or foul, etc.) without explanation.
There are three official outcomes of the replay system:
- Confirmed: Clear and convincing evidence is found to support the original call on the field.
- Overturned: Clear and convincing evidence is found showing the original call was incorrect.
- Inconclusive: There is insufficient evidence, so the original call stands.
Managers will often get an explanation before play resumes; but fans in the stands and viewers at home have often been left to their own devices to find an explanation. Umpire decisions are natural points of contention for fans and announcing crews. The mysteries surrounding replay results only added to frustration levels. The NFL, NBA and NHL have required their officials to issue in stadium announcements for replay decisions. While replay is still not a perfect medium for correcting incorrect umpire decisions, the ability to hear directly from crew chiefs immediately provides reasons for the confirmation or overturn. AppleTV and Fox broadcasts will also have retired umpires available to the broadcast booths for further explanations.
What would be truly wonderful during television, streaming and radio broadcasts would be the ability to listen in to the discussions during the review process. Professional rugby associations and the Australian Football League have provided this live feed to great reviews from viewers and broadcasters and actually allows the at-home audiences to better understand why a decision from MLB offices are being delayed. Providing transparency and immediacy to fans will only enhance the viewing experience and perhaps grow the audience size.
* One of the major thrusts of MLBPA hard-line negotiating stances revolved around the issue of competitive balance. The player’s union was adamant in their efforts to not only improve salaries for pre-arbitration eligible players, but in the efforts to secure opportunities for major-league ready prospects to be promoted to the big league clubs when they were ready. Not when deadlines for a full-year of service time had passed.
While major league rosters are not yet finalized, a significant number of top prospects have already been assigned to minor league camps. The perennially frugal Pittsburgh Pirates reassigned their best spring hitter (O’Neil Cruz) and Roansey Contreras despite obvious needs for the major league roster. A similar storyline is being written by the Baltimore Orioles- Adley Rutschman has nothing left to prove at the plate or behind the dish and Grayson Rodriguez could slot into a staff ace role in 2022 if given the opportunity. Even no-brainer offensive talents Bobby Witt, Jr. of the Kansas City Royals and Julio Rodriguez of the Seattle Mariners are not guaranteed to make Opening Day rosters despite monster Spring Training performances.
Yes, Hunter Greene has made the Cincinnati Reds rotation and Spencer Torkelson and Riley Green have secured roster spots (though Green suffered a foot fracture that could ticket him to AAA). The Blue Jays did assign their two best prospects (Gabriel Moreno and Orelvis Martinez) to minor league camps, but neither was expected to make the roster given the depth of talent ahead of them. Fans have to wonder what all the fuss was about-and worry what the MLBPA stance will be if the majority of projected Rookie of the Year candidates start their season in the minors.
* According to Bob Nightengale of USA Today, MLB plans to debut a new schedule with teams playing at least one series against every opponent, regardless of league, beginning next season. The new format is viewed as a huge plus for fans, who now get exposure to teams and players they would otherwise see once every three years.
The most obvious (and impactful) aspect of a balanced schedule in 2023 and beyond is the reduction in number of games played against division rivals. The Blue Jays will now only face the Yankees, Red Sox, Rays and Orioles 14 times each season. Given the annual competitive depth found in the AL East, at first glance this would be seen as a boost to the Blue Jays. However, it should be noted each division rival will lose at least 5 opportunities each season to beat the teams they need to in order to win a divisional title. And earn a potential opening round playoff bye.
With the institution of the universal designated hitter this season, there are few (if any) onfield differences between the existing American League and National League games. With a new CBA in their pockets and multiple cities willing to pay billions for the right to field expansion franchises in their stadiums, major league owners may be setting the stage for wholesale geographic realignment once expansion is approved.
It is only a matter of time before the Red Sox or Blue Jays complain they had to face each other in the final series of the year- while the Yankees and Rays played the likes of Pirates and Diamondbacks with a division title or wild card spot on the line.
*Featured Image Courtesy Of DaveMe Images. Prints Available For Purchase.
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Jersey born, Pittsburgh resident, baseball lifer. Staff Writer jaysfromthecouch.com. Host THE ON FEK CIRCLE on JFtC YouTube Channel. Regular guest on Jays From the couch Radio Podcast. Established WPPJ Rock-a-thon benefit, which has been broadcast annually since 1981 and has raised for than $500,000 for the Early Learning Institute of Pittsburgh. IBWAA member.