Dear MLB Managers –
Please set aside a few minutes to read this entire post. I know all of you are pretty busy. Some of you are in the midst of the playoff hunt. Others may be managing to keep your job. And all of you are looking at lists of young players to call up for September. But I’m here to remind you of a very important number – 35.
That’s right. Following Sunday’s games, there are only 35 days left in the regular season. I’m pretty sure most of you already know this and, in most seasons, it would be just another race to the finish line. But this year is different. If you don’t manage in the playoffs this season, the next time you fill out a line-up card for a regular season game a whole new weight will be on your shoulders. Not only will you have to set your line-up, monitor your starting pitcher, and manage your bullpen. You will also have the power of replay in your hands.
You can thank former managers Joe Torre and Tony La Russa, along with Braves president John Schuerholz, for suggesting that this responsibility fall in your lap. They could have advised that a “fifth umpire” be added off the field and assigned the power to review questionable calls. That way you could have kept to the confines of the top step of the dugout instead of searching for a TV feed that might give you a better, slow motion view of whatever play just occurred.
Of course, the specifics behind the new instant replay policy are still up in the air. MLB owners won’t vote on the official details until November. Now, some of you might have had the time to look at the proposed changes and others not. Here’s a Reader’s Digest version of what you could be facing next year.
- You, the managers, will let the umpires know when you want to challenge a play. You will get one challenge to use in the first six innings and one challenge to use from the seventh inning to the end of the game.
- If you don’t use your first challenge by the end of the sixth inning, you lose it.
- If you win your challenge, you get to keep it to fight another bad call.
- You can’t challenge all plays. Called balls, strikes, and hit by pitches will not be able to be challenged.
Under this system, John Schuerholz anticipates that 89% of incorrect calls will be reviewable for you. Think about that for a second. Next season, 89% of the time you walk on to the field to argue with an umpire, there won’t be an argument. It’ll simply be you asking the umpire to review the play. No cursing. No kicking dirt. No need for a blow up at all.
So I say to you, dear MLB managers, don’t think of the new replay system as just an increase in your managerial responsibilities. Also think of it as a loss of some of your freedom of expression. If deep in your heart of hearts you ever wanted to launch into an Earl Weaver-esque, expletive laden shouting match with an umpire over a balk call, you only have 35 days left in the regular season to do it. Or if a questionable out call on the base paths doesn’t go your way, there’s only a little over a month left where it will be acceptable for you do a “Lou” by throwing your hat in the dirt, yelling in the face of an umpire, and then kicking dirt on him. All while your hometown fans cheer and egg you on by throwing their own hats on the field in protest. Quite simply, in a little over a month, you will be paid solely to be a leader of a baseball team and not a potential riot.
Not that arguing balls and strikes isn’t fun and full of chances to get tossed. No matter how the MLB owners vote in November, you will still retain the right to argue the size of an umpire’s strike zone by covering home plate in dirt, ripping up the third base bag, and tossing it into center field. Then suddenly switch tactics by doing an army crawl to the mound, picking up the rosin bag, and tossing it like a grenade at the home plate umpire. Still not satisfied with the call, you can finish your ejection in grand style by removing the second base bag, collecting the tossed aside third base bag, and walking with both of them off the field. To be clear, arguing balls and strikes in this manner will still be allowed next year. You will still have the right to speak your mind. It will just present itself a lot less frequently.
Not only will this new system restrict the number of chances you have to express outrage on a bad call, it will also severely limit your chance at the record books. How are any of you going to catch Bobby Cox’s major league record of 159 ejections as a manager if 89% of bad calls will simply be reviewed? Earning 159 early trips to the shower is no easy feat. Bobby Cox needed 29 years and 4,508 games as a manager to reach that mark. That means he was getting tossed about once every 28 games. How are any of you going to average an ejection a month if called balls, strikes, and hit by pitches are the only areas left to fight over?
Sure multiple bad calls during a game could provide you with a few extra opportunities to let your freak flag fly. But MLB’s quest for a more accurate game will whitewash all the extra entertainment you managers can provide. Tell me, how many of you, like Bobby Valentine, will now keep a fake mustache and sunglasses around just in case you want to sneak back into the dugout incognito after getting tossed for arguing a catcher’s interference call? Not too many of you, I’m guessing.
Let me speak for baseball fans everywhere when I say, now is the time for you managers to live out your dream ejections. Because these last 35 days of the 2013 season will provide you with the most opportunities to lose your cool justifiably. So blow off a little steam by cursing like a sailor or by kicking dirt until you’re red in the face like toddler mid-temper tantrum. Please, MLB managers, milk this month for all it’s worth. Because, come the 2014 season, you may be so busy contemplating whether or not to challenge a call that you’ll forget to be outraged by it.