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Monday, May 21, 2018
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Rays Beat: Club adapting to new replay system’s ‘what ifs’

PORT CHARLOTTE — The Rays dipped their toes in the replay waters Friday in Dunedin during the ninth inning against the Toronto Blue Jays.

It was the first time the Rays played on TV this spring, and thus the first time replay was available.

Actually, it was Jays manager John Gibbons who requested the umpires take a look at an out call first base. They did, and the call was upheld.

It was a quick, painless use of the new system.

It won’t always be that quick or that painless.

Rays manager Joe Maddon is scheduled to meet Monday night in Fort Myers with several managers, umpires and MLB representatives to talk more about the use of replay, which has been used nearly a dozen times this spring with most calls being upheld.

Yet questions are being asked around the major leagues by managers, front office personnel and players regarding what Maddon called the “what ifs.”

Rays pitchers Brandon Gomes and Matt Moore already have raised questions. Maddon won’t go into details, because he doesn’t want to reveal his thoughts. Also, he’s not quite sure how this is going to work.

Tony Clark, the executive director of the Major League Baseball Players’ Association, said the initial take was expanding replay wouldn’t be too difficult. After all, you’re just looking at a play on TV to determine safe or out, fair or foul, interference or no interference. What could be hard, right?

Then people in MLB’s office began asking the “yeah, buts” and “what ifs.”

“We wanted to make sure that there are conversations over the course of the year, if there are adjustments that need to be made or things need to be addressed,” Clark said. “There are going to be challenges along the way and we want to be in a position to be able to address them as they happen.”

Maddon compared the expanded use of replay akin to opening Pandora’s box. Arizona Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson agreed, recently telling reporters, “I think it’s going to be a lot more complicated than we thought.”

Which is why Maddon and his staff and players are trying to figure out all the angles.

“It’s not a loophole,” Maddon said. “That’s the point. You’re not attempting to exploit loopholes. It’s kind of like quality assurance. You’re trying to stay ahead of it. If there’s things you can think about in advance, I think that can benefit you, obviously.”

Having first basemen throw home with runners on base after the third out was recorded at first so the catcher can tag a runner who rounded third and kept running is one example of Maddon thinking ahead. The Rays can stop that run from scoring if that call at first is challenged and overturned.

“It may require retraining some habits in order to not have an interpretation go against you, so that’s what I’m looking at,” Maddon said. “I don’t know if I’m right. That’s why I’m not popping off about it. I’m just asking a lot of questions and I’m eager to hear what they have to say in this meeting.”

Like Clark, Maddon believes the replay rules will be reviewed during the course of the season. Same with the rules governing collisions at home plate.

Baseball really stepped out of its conservative past this offseason when it designed and instituted those rules. For a sport that moved at a glacial pace regarding the use of technology, they stepped up the pace to expand the system before the 2014 season.

It is long overdue and ultimately in the best interest of the sport.

But it will come with an early cost, and that will be the “yeah buts” and “what ifs” that have yet to be discovered.

“There’s still going to be adjustments made. I really believe that, as more items are revealed, you can only anticipate and think about so much,” Maddon said.

“But how many times have you said I’ve never seen that before in this game? And that happens, like, 100 years later, so regardless of how much you think you can think this through, things are going to pop up that you have not thought about.”

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