At this point, it is clear that Major League Baseball’s new replay system leaves something to be desired. This weekend’s Yankees-Red Sox series saw an odd play in which Yankees shortstop Dean Anna was obviously tagged out at second base per the replays played on the Fox Sports 1 broadcast. However, MLB replay headquarters either didn’t have the same angles as the broadcast or they flat-out missed the call, as the play was upheld after replay.
The next night, the Red Sox were on the losing of end of a rightly-overturned call at first base. Farrell came out to argue the overturned call and was promptly tossed from the game — arguing a replay occupies the same space as arguing balls and strikes, and Farrell must have known he was cruising towards a tossing.
The imperfections in the replay system are worth noting, and must be fixed before it can be considered a success. But it was striking, as I watched Farrell scream his lungs out at the umpiring crew: I hadn’t seen a manager lose his mind at the umpires yet this year, two weeks into the season.
One man can only watch so much baseball, but my suspicions were quickly confirmed by the ESPN booth: Farrell was just the second manager to be tossed this season. The first was Cubs manager Rick Renteria, who was tossed for arguing balls and strikes in his club’s seventh game of the season last Tuesday.
Three players have been tossed this season as well. Mets infielders Daniel Murphy and David Wright both earned heave-hos after a questionable call on a strike three against Travis d’Arnaud late in a blowout Sunday.
Wright described the call as “That’s fucking the worst. The worst I’ve seen.”
But PITCHf/x showed the call was right over the plate. Big news for anybody who owns Toby Basner in their Umpire Fantasy League.
Rounding out the ejections so far is Elvis Andrus, who was also tossed Sunday for arguing a called third strike in a 0-0 game in the third inning. Replays and PITCHf/x indicate this call was correct as well.
Sunday saw a flurry of ejections with four of the season’s five tossings to date, but the season rate still remains well lower than 2013. So far, with 185 games played, there has been one ejection for just every 37 games played, and one manager or coach (no non-manager coaches have been ejected yet) ejection per 92.5 games. Compare this to 2013, which saw 180 ejections — 97 of which were coaches or managers — over 2431 games. This comes out to one ejection every 13.5 games, and one manager or coach ejection every 25 games. Sample sizes are small, but these are huge differences, and can easily be attributed to the presence of replay as arbiter between competitors and umpires.
Surely there will be people who lament the phasing out of the manager tantrum. I will be the first to laugh at a great Lou Piniella blowup, or Lloyd McClendon stealing first base or the greatest of them all, Phillip Wellman’s explosion in the minor leagues. But once you get beyond the chuckles they provide, these aggressive displays are simply sad. The manager tantrum is nothing but impotent authoritarian rage that often takes just as much time — if not more — than an instant replay and accomplishes nothing.
It’s hard to say if baseball is overall better with instant replay. But I firmly believe baseball is better with fewer player ejections and fewer old man histrionics on the field. There will be moments, as with Farrell on Sunday and Renteria earlier this season, but they will be fewer and farther between. So to the manager tantrum, I can say only this: don’t let the clubhouse door hit you on the ass on the way out.