Miami Marlins' first instant replay illustrates kinks in the system

Marc Serota

Marlins skipper Mike Redmond made history on Wednesday night by making the club's first challenge using Major League Baseball's new instant replay system on a call at second base. In addition to being critical to the outcome of the game as it kept a big offensive inning going for the Rockies, the play also illustrated some issues with the new instant replay system that need to be addressed.

The first instant replay challenge in Marlins history went against the Marlins.

In the fourth inning, with no outs and runners on first and second, Miami second baseman Derek Dietrich fielded a bouncing ball off the bat of DJ LeMahieu, but appeared to slip as he made a throw to shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria, who was covering the bag at second. The throw pulled Hechavarria away from the bag, but he appeared to still be able to drag his foot across second base while the ball was in his glove for the force out before Jordan Pacheco made it from first base.

Umpire Jerry Layne called Pacheco safe on the field, leading to Mike Redmond's challenge. After a three minute review, the ruling on the field was upheld by replay technology.

"Both of our guys [in the video room] said they thought he was out," Redmond said. "I looked at the video, and he sure looked like he was out to me. I'm sure the explanation was inconclusive. Out of 10 times, we're going to challenge that play 10 times. It didn't go our way today, for whatever reason."

The play, along with a previous throwing error on a routine play by Hechavarria and a later wild pitch by Henderson Alvarez, kicked off a 3-run inning and gave the Rockies a 6-1 lead.

It goes without saying that it is important to get the call right in that situation, so Redmond cannot be faulted for giving it a go.

The problem, however, is that the replay, which per MLB rules was reviewed by officials in the MLB Advanced Media headquarters in New York, was, at best, inconclusive. This was because the MLB replay system relies on the home and away broadcast feeds, which in some cases, like when a player's cleat flashes across the top a base, do not provide the highest quality look at a play and, consequently, does not yield conclusive evidence.

Another problem with the replay system is the timing of the replays. Marlins management has been vocal in recent days about shortening the length of games, even specifically addressing the effect of instant replay on achieving that goal.

Not only does instant replay necessarily add to the length of games, it also has the potential to break up players' rhythm. Although Henderson Alvarez was struggling to get a handle prior to Wednesday night's replay of the play at second base, the three minute interlude where he did not throw a single pitch appeared to further exacerbate the problem. In fact, his very next pitch found the backstop and brought in a Rockies run.

As others have pointed out, the new replay system already has its share of detractors even at this early stage of the season. Given the tens of millions of dollars that MLB has invested into its new replay system, it is unlikely that we'll see instant replay scrapped entirely, but perhaps we'll see the installation of additional cameras so that a determination can be made more quickly and accurately with minimal impact on the length and rhythm of the game.

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