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Sports

MLB replay begins slow stroll toward postseason

MLB replay begins slow stroll toward postseason
Second base umpire Adrian Johnson, left, and third base umpire Larry Vanover, center, listen to an instant replay call during the first inning of a baseball game between the Philadelphia Phillies and the Milwaukee Brewers, Wednesday, April 9, 2014, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Michael Perez)
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John Gibbons has a pretty standard rule for deciding when to discuss a bang-bang call with an umpire.

"We try to go out there anytime it's close," the Toronto manager says.

Same way across the majors: There have been more than 1,000 reviews so far in this new era of expanded replay - nearly half resulting in a reversal - and it's only August.

Now get ready for an even longer postseason parade of that slow dance, where the skipper strolls onto the field, twirls around the ump and waits for the go-or-no sign from the dugout.

Makes sense, too. Good idea to check most every tag and trap, especially when a single missed call could mean the difference between winning the World Series and an early exit.

"I think there are times that you have to challenge regardless of whether you think it will get overturned or not, depending at the importance at the time, where you are in the game," Oakland manager Bob Melvin said.

And perhaps there might be something else to consider come October.

The rule on those pesky plays at home, generating plenty of disputes over whether the catcher did or didn't block the plate, could get tweaked again.

"They might do something before the playoffs. I think the catching thing at home plate," Baltimore manager Buck Showalter said.

That would be fine with Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon.

"It's a fluid situation, there is nothing locked in. Having said that, I think whatever is locked in at the time should be abided by. Then if anything is to be amended, then do that," he said.

"I think in a perverse way, it would be a good thing before the playoffs begin. It will probably benefit baseball," the noted freethinker said.

For the record, Commissioner Bud Selig said there aren't any replay adjustments planned prior to the postseason.

"No, we will do that in offseason," he said this week during a visit to Petco Park in San Diego.

"Yeah, there are some tweaks and some things we need to do, but I am very happy," he said.

All along, Major League Baseball said it would take a few years to get the system just right. Five months into the season, everyone is still learning, now that most everything except balls-and-strikes can be reviewed.

Cleveland pitcher Corey Kluber got rankled this week when he wasn't allowed to throw some warmups after a replay delay. Maddon filed a protest over the timing of a challenge by Gibbons. Boston manager John Farrell questioned two aspects of the same play.

Farrell, the first manager to be ejected this season for arguing a replay decision, said he's "in full agreement with the spirit of the use of instant replay, and that's to get the calls right."

But he has his own idea on how that might be done.

"I think it would be ideal if Major League Baseball could take one person and be the overseer in every game, and they determine what play is reviewable or not," Farrell said. "I think that would be most objective and most consistent."

So no more manager challenges?

"Yes," he said.

As of this week, there had been 1,030 situations that got reviewed by the booth in New York. Of those, 478 - 46.4 percent - resulted in a reversed call.

With so much concern about slow games being dragged out, the reviews averaged 1 minute, 49 seconds.

Cincinnati shortstop Zack Cozart has seen the extremes - both the shortest and longest replays this year involved him.

It took umpires only 23 seconds to confirm that a foul ball Cozart hit wasn't instead a home run. It took 6:17 for umpires to reverse the original call and rule that Cozart was safe at the plate because the catcher blocked his path.

To Angels star Josh Hamilton, it can be a bit confusing.

"I still don't get what takes them so long. I mean, they show it on the (video board) and we're looking at it and we say: 'Oh, he's out,' or 'He's safe,'" Hamilton said.

"And they're still talking about it for an extra amount of seconds, and a minute and a half later, they're still in their headphones," he said.

That's after the manager gets the thumbs up or thumbs down from the dugout on whether to challenge.

"I don't know how you can speed that up, but I guess it's better than having the manager out there yelling at the umpire for missing a call," Milwaukee pitcher Kyle Lohse said.

As of this week, by the way, ejections were up just slightly from last year - 161 this season, 147 last season, STATS said. A lot of those are ball-strike disputes - some umpires feel that's a result of managers needing to vent, because they're not supposed to argue replay decisions.

San Francisco manager Bruce Bochy has been tossed three times. He likes the replay system, and also thinks it's brought some extra excitement.

"There's been quite a bit of anticipation from the fans and the players - 'Are they going to overturn it?'" he said.
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Mariners rout Angels, gain ground in playoff race Mariners rout Angels, gain ground in playoff race