The first 20 instances of umpires invoking baseball's new expanded review resulted in the call being upheld. But yesterday in Tempe, the replay system finally earned its keep.
With the bases loaded and one out, Angels second baseman Andrew Romine bobbled the ball while trying to turn a double play. The runner was ruled out by force, but Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon came out to challenge the call, arguing that Romine never had possession. After a review that lasted about 2:30, McClendon was vindicated, and the Seattle runner was ruled safe at second.
This particular reversal opens up all sorts of questions about what plays can and should be challengeable. A fielder's possession, especially when trying to turn a double play, is essentially a judgment call, and MLB has exempted a somewhat similar judgment call from replay's purview. Angels manager Mike Scioscia is concerned that the transfer play is going to be irrevocably changed:
"That's one thing that will probably be called a little tighter. Before, it was called loosely. If you had the ball in your glove and you moved your glove to get it to your hand, it was called an out. That's going to change the mechanics of how you turn a double play. A lot of guys are adept at closing their glove and flipping it into their hand for a quick transfer. If there's a bobble on that, it's going to be called safe."
The fact that this was the first controversial play to be overturned in 21 tries points to either a lack of cameras at spring training games, or that the umpires are really, really good at getting calls right in real time. (Likely both.) That second one is heartening, but critics of the system won't be happy that nearly a cumulative hour has been added to already-overlong games just to correct a single call.