At a critical moment in yesterday's 2-1 Detroit Tigers victory, Chicago White Sox manager Robin Ventura slowly came up the dugout steps and began to walk onto the field. The game was tied at one in the bottom of the ninth inning, and umpires had just called Nick Castellanos safe on a close play at second base. Castellanos had lined a pitch from reliever Zach Duke into right field, and after a brief misplay, rightfielder Avisail Garcia's throw had clearly beaten Castellanos to the bag. While Ventura was looking out onto the field and back around into the dugout, Tigers manager Brad Ausmus, sent Andrew Romine in as a pinch runner for Castellanos.
As Ventura hesitantly approached the diamond, both television crews declared that Ventura had nothing to lose by asking for a replay review. Except he didn't. And then he did, but it was too late.
When play resumed, Romine was advanced to third on a sacrifice bunt by Alex Avila. Jose Iglesias then drilled a sharp grounder past the drawn-in infield to score Romine with the winning run. As the Tigers celebrated a walk off victory, the White Sox were left to wonder what just happened.
The Chicago broadcast, which was picked up nationally by the MLB Network, showed several angles of the play, none of which showed a tag being applied by Chicago shortstop, Alexei Ramirez. Castellanos appeared to slide in safely. But the Fox Sports Detroit crew got it right. One camera angle clearly showed that, Ramirez had applied a tag on Castellanos' shoe before Ramirez lifted the ball up above the runner's leg. Fans watching in Detroit were treated to the correct angle, while the rest of the nation never saw the tag.
Ventura held a conversation with the umpires for several minutes, but to no avail. According to MLive.com's James Schmehl, Ventura was informed by umpires that it was too late for him to appeal the play. Ventura explained his indecision to reporters.
"They said he missed him. I wish I could actually watch it," Ventura said. "You have to go with what your guys are going with. You could just go out and challenge it anyway, but when you get a 'He missed him,' you don't challenge it."
"You think about (appealing) it anyway if you get a maybe, yeah you think about doing it," Ventura said. "I didn't even get a maybe."
Ramirez appeared to question the call of the umpire, but also the decision of his own manager. He told the Chicago Tribune, through an interpreter:
"We were in the ninth inning — you have to review the play," Ramirez said. "Maybe they missed the play the first time on the video, but I am 100 percent I tagged him. If you are going to lose, you don’t want to lose in this way."
For his part, Castellanos was unsure whether he had been tagged out.
"To be honest, I didn't feel anything," he said. "When he called me safe, my initial reaction was that he got it right. Did he end up touching me? I wish I could give you an answer. I didn't feel anything."
Major League Baseball made some adjustments to the rules regarding replay reviews during the offseason. Not only did they add to the list of reviewable plays, but some of the changes were designed to address "pace of play" concerns. No longer is it acceptable for a manager to stroll out onto the field, stalling for time as his technicians watch television to see if umpires got the call right. He who hesitates is lost, in the new scheme of things.
According to Major League Baseball Replay Review Regulations, a manager has one replay appeal per game. If the appeal results in a call being reversed, he can have another. Ventura had an appeal left, but he did not use it, even though his shortstop was adamant that he made the tag.
The rules clearly state that if a manager wishes to challenge a call, he must immediately inform the umpire that he wishes to use his challenge. If he does not act immediately, his opportunity is lost.
Upon being prompted by the Umpire, a Manager must immediately inform the Umpire whether he wishes to use his Manager Challenge to invoke Replay Review. If, upon such prompting, the Manager does not immediately respond that he is using his Manager Challenge, then the Umpire shall revoke the Manager's right to challenge any call relating to that play, and the Club shall retain its Manager Challenge.
In fairness to Ventura, a manager has to rely upon his own eyes in making his decision. His technicians in the clubhouse may not be able to load up the super-slow-mo replay quickly enough to see whether the umpire got the call right. Or, they could be watching the wrong channel.