Matt Williams may be a rookie manager, but even baseball lifers will have no advantage over him when it comes to MLB’s new replay system. His first year as a manager will also coincide with baseball’s expanded use of instant replay.
Ever prepared, Williams has been thinking a lot of how the system will work and how he will employ his replay challenges. Teams are still figuring out how precisely how the rules will work, and they have not officially been passed.
As Williams understands the plan, teams will have a direct line of communication between the clubhouse and the dugout to determine what and when to challenge.
“Every team will have that,” Williams said. “It’s a question of who that is. We certainly have members of the organization that are with us on the road. We want to be consistent with that so we have the same guy all the time. And certainly somebody that’s used to looking at it and can give us an evaluation via the replay and let us know whether it’s a challengeable thing that we want to do at that point.”
“We’ll confirm that when we go and make sure that that is in fact the case,” Williams added. “But that’s what we’ve been informed so far. That we will have the ability to have somebody look at it and evaluate whether we want to challenge or not.”
The Nationals are operating under the assumption that every manager will have two challenges for the first six innings, followed by three innings (plus any extras) in which the umpiring crew will determine which plays get challenged.
“It’s an interesting thing from a manager’s perspective, because you can imagine as soon as something happens on the field, the fan reaction is going to be ‘challenge, challenge, challenge,’ ” Williams said. “You have to weigh those things and figure out whether that’s something that’s really going to make a difference within that inning or within the game. So all of those things will come into play.”
The replay system will be in play during spring training so teams can become accustomed to it. Williams has envisioned different game situations that would and would not warrant a challenge. He came up with one tricky example Wednesday, when a team could reverse a call but may be better off holding its challenge for a more crucial moment.
“Your eighth hitter with two outs hits a ground ball to shortstop,” Williams said. “You think he beat the play. But you have your pitcher up next. The likelihood of that pitcher getting a hit is generally not great as compared to a position player. Do you challenge that when in fact you could have something else later in the game that could be of more significance for your club? So those types of things get weighed in that time frame.”
It will be something all teams – and all managers, first year or not – will be thinking about all year.
“That’s one of the scenarios,” Williams said. “I mean, there’s a million of them. So it’ll be interesting.”
** The Nationals will start their full-squad workouts today. Position players took physicals Wednesday, and Williams said all of them passed with no issues. Pitchers did not throw any bullpen sessions, working instead on fielding drills.
** Ross Ohlendorf is the only Nationals pitcher who has yet to throw his first bullpen session. Williams said the delay was not related to health.
“Ross is a touch-and-feel guy,” Williams said. “He’s good to go for [Thursday], and we’re kind of stacking these guys as we go. He’s done certainly some flat ground throwing, participated in all the drills.”
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