Nationals play first game under new instant replay rules
by Amanda Comak
KISSIMMEE, Fla. – The Washington Nationals will play their first game with the availability of instant replay Wednesday, joining a number of teams that have already gotten their first crack at the new system. While the squad will be split, with one group headed to Orlando to face the Atlanta Braves, the entire Major League coaching staff will be at Osceola County Stadium for the team’s first game under the new rules.
The Nationals will play five games with the use of instant replay this spring, giving the players and the coaching staff a chance to get accustomed to a system that will be in place for all 162 regular season games.
“It’s good practice for us — for everybody,” said manager Matt Williams. “If there’s a questionable call we are going to challenge that call during the course of our spring games, so we get a sense of what it is and how we go about doing it. There’s also the opportunity to talk to (the umpires) and not have to use a challenge. The umpires have told us they’re willing to do that because they want to get it right as well. (But) we’re here (in Spring Training). We might as well do it and get accustomed to it while we’re here.”
On Wednesday, the Nationals planned to have Advance Scouting and Video Coordinators Erick Dalton and Chris Rosenbaum at their posts in front of the same feed that the MLB offices in New York will be getting. If a call arises that the team would like to replay, Dalton and Rosenbaum will communicate with bench coach Randy Knorr and they’ll go from there.
The instant replay system is still in its infancy, and everyone will have to go through a process of getting accustomed to the various procedures. One of the main ones for teams to consider is that if a manager uses his challenge in innings one through six, and he is wrong, he loses the ability to challenge again. But if he is correct, and the call gets overturned, he will keep his ability to challenge.
To read more about the new rules, click here.
How a team will use its challenges will be one of the more interesting items to watch in the early going, and Williams shed a little light on his thinking in that regard.
“I think if it means something to our team, we’re going to use it,” Williams said. “And if we’re confident that we’re right, we’re going to get another one. In any situation where something like that comes up, I would imagine I’d ask the umpires to take a look at it. If we have to get to a situation where we challenge, then we’ll challenge, but we’d have to be confident we’ll get it changed for our team. It’ll be fluid with every game because every game presents something different.
“If you’re sure the call should go your way, you might as well use it because you’re going to get another opportunity. The sticky one is the one that is questionable, where it’s not conclusive one way or another — and there are those calls, even with slow motion and all the technology. You want to be right. If you are right, you get another one. So we’ll see how that goes.”
A lot will go into each decision to decide to challenge a call, starting with the video coordinators, funneling through Knorr, and ultimately ending with Williams’ decision to use the word “challenge” in a conversation with the umpires. Game situations will be considered, along with the team’s confidence in the fact that an errant call was made. It adds a new layer to the game, without question, but the ultimate goal of everyone involved is the same: to get the calls right.
“It doesn’t hurt to go have a look,” Williams said. “This game is played with emotion, and it’s played with eyes, and the want to win. That being said, often times we get clouded, too, in our view of things, because we want our team to win. It’s going to allow us to have clarification and to be clear about what we’re seeing.
“We always think when your pitcher’s throwing it, it’s a strike, and when our batter’s taking it, it’s a ball. But this gives us clarification in (other) scenarios.”
The rain was falling steadily at Osceola County Stadium late Wednesday morning, so there was some question whether or not the Nationals would indeed get their first replay opportunity on this day. Whenever it comes, though, they’ll welcome it.
“I’m looking forward to it because it is what it is,” Williams said. “It’s part of our game right now and we have to do it so I’m excited about that… I’m looking forward to the opportunity for us to potentially get a call changed our way and win a game.”