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Zuba: Replay gets rave reviews ­­­— for now (March 5)

| Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Major League Baseball saw its first-ever challenges Monday during a spring training game between the Blue Jays and Twins, and, apparently, everyone on the field behaved calmly. Well, that’s super boring.

Unfortunately, neither team’s manager ripped up a base and hurled it across the field. Players did not break bats, and fans did not storm out of the stadium. After all the hullaballoo leading up to the installation of instant reply, the whole experiment went well, according to both teams involved.

Yeah, it went well — for now.

Two instant-replay challenges occurred in Monday’s game. Blue Jays manager John Gibbons issued the historic first challenge on a play at first base when Minnesota outfielder Chris Rahl was ruled safe because Blue Jays first baseman Jared Goedert was off the bag.

The original call was upheld after a delay of two minutes and 34 seconds, and the crowd happily listened to “Twist and Shout” during the delay, according to MLB.com.

After the game, no one seemed to have anything negative to say about the system and its first trial run. The players and managers involved said in interviews with MLB.com that they thought the umpires handled the challenges efficiently and professionally.

Frankly, some controversy would have spiced up the story a bit because everyone seemed to agree, “Yup, it works great.”

Instant-replay enthusiasts can continue to cheer, however, because ESPN.com reported that baseball officials expect that, once the season gets underway and umpires and teams start to understand the system, the average delay will be about half as long as this first one.

One minute and 17 seconds might sound insignificant — for one game. But if a lot of games see multiple challenges, as this one did, instant replay could get real old, real quick.

Baseball season is long and grueling, and managers and players might change their tune when the heat of August rolls around.

As of right now, the system looks good. Gibbons told MLB.com he thought instant replay works well — provided it does not spiral out of control.

“They want to get it right, too, so unless it’s ridiculous, they’ll check, unless you get carried away and go out every inning,” Gibbons said. “I thought it worked fine.”

Instant replay probably will not get out of control within any one game. But challenges in game after game will start to add up. A manager might not be able to challenge in every inning, but he can challenge in every game.

Blue Jays pitcher Kyle Drabek was pitching when Gibbons called for the first challenge. Drabek told MLB.com the delay was fine.

“It wasn’t too long,” he said. “All of the infielders stood on the mound. I was just about to tell [catcher A.J. Jimenez] to go back behind the plate so I could start throwing again. That’s when the umps were ready to go again.”

Hmm, I would like to catch up with Drabek after he has been on the mound for many delays over the course of the season.

No one knows exactly how the instant-replay experiment will pan out. Neither its success nor its failure will be guaranteed by the results of the first trials.

Nothing about the efficiency of instant replay will be determined until the end of the season, no matter how short the delays become. Baseball is an endurance sport, so instant replay has a long way to go to show it can stick around in the league.

Anything can happen in 162 games. Well, almost anything — sorry, Cubs fans.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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