A word about replay reviews on the Nationals Park video board

WASHINGTON  - APRIL 4:Washington Nationals manager Matt Williams (9) walks back to the dugout after talking with umpire Jim Joyce (66), right, and others, after Desmond's home run was ruled a double in the fifth inning during the Opening Day game at Nationals Park between the Washington Nationals and the Atlanta Braves on Friday, April 4, 2014. The Washington Nationals lost 2-1 to the Atlanta Braves. (Photo by Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post)

(Photo by Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post)

Baseball’s new replay system, which is dreck, included a stipulation to keep fans inside the park engaged. The video board in stadiums would show the replay as the game ground to an utter halt. In season’s first series at Nationals Park, though, the video board showed a black screen informing them had a challenge had been issue.

Many fans wondered why they couldn’t see the replays. Well, they can now. Wednesday night at Nationals Park, umpires reviewed three plays, and each time, the video board showed them.

Here’s what happened: The Nationals, like all teams, were told they must wait for umpires to put on their headphones before showing the replay – MLB does not want managers getting an extra look at a play in question on the scoreboard. To start the year, the Nationals wanted to be cautious, and they never got the replay loaded on the board in time. Now that they’re familiar with the process, it’s replays for all.

In the bigger picture, replay has been awful. I thought baseball needed instant replay, and I have no doubt baseball arrived at the current system through diligent planning and the best intentions. In practice, it stinks. Manager use their challenges as a game. Umpires err on the side of letting plays unfold, which disrupts how we view the game. The breaks, especially for close calls few would have been bothered by either way, are ceaseless and annoying. Baseball needs some kind of mechanism to protect itself from embarrassing calls. What they have now mucks up the game.

One of the problems with letting managers challenge is the way they stall walking out to talk with the umpire. Every close play with even marginal importance brings the manager out of the dugout while his coaching staff consults with the video coordinators. This is how Williams described his conversation with the umpires during situations:

“We talk about the weather,” Williams said. “ ‘Hey, how’s the family? How was the winter? Boy, my ankle really hurts. We played fungo golf today with the coaching staff. I’m sore.’ Stuff like that. And then Randy [Knorr] gives me the thumbs up or down, and I say, ‘Okay, have a nice evening,’ and run back. That’s about it.”

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