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Replay Review, ‘Secured Possession Rule’ Officially Ruining Major League Baseball

By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
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Ron Washington (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Ron Washington (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

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BOSTON (CBS) — This has gotten outrageous.

Over the weekend, we all witnessed a colossal failure of MLB’s new replay system, when replay officials somehow didn’t have access to a camera angle that showed Yankees infielder Dean Anna to be clearly out at second base. Such a failure is unacceptable, but at least the end result — a safe call, in this case — was not the intended one that MLB wanted.

But what happened in Texas on Monday night was simply outrageous.

In the top of the sixth inning, with the bases loaded and nobody out, Brad Miller grounded a ball back to pitcher Pedro Figueroa on the mound. Figueroa fielded the ball cleanly and fired home for a force out. Catcher J.P. Arencibia caught the ball and pivoted toward first to try retire Miller for a 1-2-3 double play. However, Arencibia lost his grip on the baseball when taking it out of his mitt, ending the chances of turning two.

Dustin Ackley, who had been on third base, was ruled out via force play at the plate. However, Seattle manager Lloyd McClendon came out of the dugout to argue that under MLB’s new rule about securing a ball through a transfer, Ackley should have been safe.

The umpires agreed to go to replay review, and after a three-plus minute delay, Ackley was ruled to be safe.

Bases loaded, nobody out.

To be sure, the call probably didn’t matter with regard to the outcome of this particular game. The Rangers were losing 5-0 at the time, and the overturning of the call made it 6-0. The Rangers eventually lost 7-1.

But this issue is much larger than just one game. What MLB is now telling players and fans is that sometimes, a catch is not a catch. For the past 100 years, the act of securing a baseball in one’s glove was sufficient to count as a catch, but now the act has become twofold.

This was not a rule that needed changing.

Seriously, watch this 5-minute fiasco and answer this question: Is baseball even worth watching if this is what it’s become?

God bless Ron Washington for coming out of the Texas dugout and losing his mind. If anything, he was pretty reserved. Had I been in that situation, I might have removed my hat, my jacket, my glasses and my shoes and left them on the plate, telling the umpires to have fun with whatever sport they were watching, because it sure as hell wasn’t baseball.

“I understand what the rule says. I don’t agree with it,” said Washington, perhaps because he’s familiar with the sport of baseball and understands what a catch looks like. The guy was out, I understand the rule.”

(There’s also this fun fact: If a manager argues with umpires after a call is made via replay review, he is ejected immediately. It’s a rule that would make sense if, you know, the replay system made sense and resulted in good, fair calls. But you have to love the audacity of MLB to essentially announce, “We are going to make some puzzling decisions via replay review, and we’ll even admit to some of them being wrong after the fact, but you cannot argue them. Sit in your dugout, manager. You can talk when we say you can talk.” Awesome stuff, really.)

The same praise for Washington should be heaped on John Farrell for his performance in the Bronx on Sunday night. Using my best lip-reading abilities, it looked like the Red Sox manager told umpire Bob Davidson to take his horse-bleep calls and shove them up his bleeping bleep. Farrell added a “Bleep you” before walking off the field, just in case the message hadn’t yet been made.

After Farrell’s Sox were on the losing end of both the Anna screw-up on Saturday and a reversed out call on Francisco Cervelli on Sunday night, he had seen enough out of this new, unnecessary system that flat-out does not work.

Here’s Farrell securing my vote for President of the United States in 2016:

John Farrell and Bob Davidson (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)

John Farrell and Bob Davidson (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)

“It’s hard to have any faith in the system,” Farrell said, succinctly summing up the nonsense in just nine words. “As much as they’re trying to help the human element, it seems like it’s added the human element at a different level.”

Adding another level of the human element is certainly an issue with replay, but the entire system is proving to be an abject disaster.

Fans, media and players who wanted expanded replay in the game did so because of the obvious umpiring mistakes. They wanted to see Armando Galarraga’s perfect game to not be ruined by Jim Joyce’s blindness. They wanted to see Phil Cuzzi’s sheer idiocy not cost the Twins a chance at stealing an extra-innings playoff win at Yankee Stadium. They wanted to see Tim Welke’s ridiculously awful out call at first base to be reversed. (Seriously, look at this. Are you kidding me?)

These were simple, obvious fixes that would take a whole 5 seconds to fix via replay review.

But this nonsense that the addition of replay — and the addition of a “transfer rule,” that did not need to be added and has already caused too many problems to properly keep track — is not what anybody wanted. The result has been a mixture of embarrassment and confusion.

Even Gary Bettman has to be laughing at Bud Selig’s expense right now.

The system can be fixed, and if MLB is smart, it will act fast to make sweeping changes quickly. We’ve seen enough in the first two weeks of the season to know that this isn’t working. But for now, we’ll just have to watch endless slow-motion, high-definition replays as broadcasters wonder “was the ball fully secured in the glove before the foot hit?” or “did the fielder maintain possession after making the catch?” and ask ourselves a simple question:

What is the point?

Read more from Michael Hurley by clicking here, or find him on Twitter @michaelFhurley.

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