Tanaka, replay and questionable things


Discussions of protocol. // Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

On the one hand, I am not a fan of challenge-based replay systems, because of the murky layer it builds in the path of actually getting calls right.

But as a viewer, who enjoys the high drama of seeing coaches and managers–lifelong students of the sport and dedicated men of their craft–have their best laid plans cast asunder and their reputation as capable human thinkers trashed as they fumble through determining how to navigate some oddly worded and coded replay system, the MLB’s Wednesday announcement was another victory.

Managers will now have to decide when to use their one replay challenge, and must use it well in order to earn one more. Then, once the seventh inning strikes, they are still at the mercy of the umpire to decide to confer with the New York-based replay hub.

One might think of all sports, baseball would steer clear of explicitly codifying a different layer scrutiny on the later portions of their games into their umpiring policy, but here we are, handing off the first part of the game’s replay requests to Robin Ventura, then suddenly becoming a centralized operations in the final hour. Or conversely, running with a collaborative replay system for the first six innings, then deciding to throw Angel Hernandez’s hubris into the mix for the conclusion.

However, this does add some new purpose to manager-umpire arguments. Once theatrical displays of resistance carried out for their own sake, arguments in the seventh inning or after now offer a more specific challenge: disturb and ruin the game until the umpire relents and calls for the replay.


It seems like being moved out of the general manager seat has freed Kenny Williams from the professionalized constraints of GM-speak. Now he can dive all the way in KW cockiness without remorse in front of captive audiences that can make proper use of bold claims, such as Chuck Garfien.

Williams thinks that a good fit might enable the White Sox to sign the Japanese hurler without the top monetary bid. Williams clearly felt that his team’s pitch resonated with Masahiro Tanaka, and that’s a good thing, but claims that his interest go beyond “the almighty dollar” sounds like oversimplifying why a lack of bidding power might hamper the White Sox.

Players don’t take the highest bid because they would choose money over world peace, or because they barely like baseball anyway and have to be goaded into playing it. There are also concerns about being paid what they’re worth relative to their peers and the revenue they generate, and what money doesn’t satisfy in terms of players’ desires to own mattress stuffed with lotion, it is a very clear way of communicating a team’s commitment to the player.

Here’s an example: The White Sox put on the full-court press with Jose Abreu, talked about how they wanted him to be a building block of their franchise, convinced him how comfortable he would be playing alongside his fellow countrymen (as opposed to saying “Hey, Tadahito Iguchi used to play here!”) and with Minnie Minoso traipsing around the building, and how well his power would play in U.S. Cellular…

…and then they sealed the deal by offering him the most money.