Hurdle 'very optimistic' about expanded replay
Pirates manager thinks new format can cut down on ejections while maintaining flow
One way for Clint Hurdle to assess newly adopted expanded instant replay is that Major League Baseball has just saved him a lot of money.
The Pirates manager tied (with former Cubs skipper Dale Sveum) for getting thrown out of the most games during the 2013 season, and noted that each of his six ejections resulted from arguments triggered by plays that will now be reviewable.
"I think that's true," said Hurdle, whose fiercest rhubarbs always involve umpires' calls on bang-bang plays at the bases. "More often than not, I do think that's where the highest percentage of ejections come from.
"So not only will we now have a means for getting those calls right, but also for keeping the game moving along better and keeping managers in the game. Because you can still go out there and argue but, at some point, you'll have to cut to the chase. The umpires will say, 'Are you done yelling? You want a review?' And that's a great thing."
Hurdle alluded to a significant tweak in the replay process from how it had been tested during November games in the Arizona Fall League: Then, managers could either argue or challenge a play, not both; as implemented, they will be able to contest a call before deciding to ask for a formal review in the Replay Command Center.
Hurdle, the reigning National League Manager of the Year, has all along expressed confidence in the blue-ribbon panel tasked with formulating expanded replay and is confident they got it right.
"It was a trusted group, headed by [Braves club president] John Schuerholz and including [Hall of Fame manager] Tony La Russa, and I'm very optimistic," Hurdle said. "It's a positive step forward. I know MLB has always put a priority on being mindful to adopt things that improve the game without disrupting its flow.
"We're moving forward. I know this won't be a finished product, but it's a very positive first step. There will remain a lot of conversation. But we're being creative, and have a chance to make history and set a precedent."
One area in which Hurdle envisions a future shift involves whether a ball is caught cleanly or on a short hop. The so-called trap play is reviewable but, as currently worded, only when it involves an outfielder.
"We might have to revisit the definition of 'outfielder' there," said Hurdle, mindful of a common situation. "What of the infielder who drifts far onto the grass for a catch attempt? Does that turn him into an 'outfielder' by this definition, subject to review?"
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.