Major League Baseball has approved the use of expanded instant replay for the 2014 season. It remains to be seen how the game will be impacted by this development, but there clearly is an emphasis on getting every call correct moving forward.
Sure, there still will be some controversial plays. For example, the obstruction call against Will Middlebrooks that allowed the St. Louis Cardinals to defeat the Boston Red Sox in Game 3 of the 2013 World Series still would not be reviewable under the new instant replay rules approved by the owners last week. Obstruction calls are not reviewable, so that certainly will add another layer of arguing if a similar play happens at some point in the future.
Reviewable plays under the new instant replay system include home runs, ground rule doubles, fan interference, stadium boundary calls, force plays (except for “neighborhood plays” on double plays), tag plays, fair/foul plays in the outfield, trap plays in the outfield, batters hit by pitches, timing plays (whether a runner scores before a third out), touching bases, passing runners and record keeping (counts, substitutions, etc.).
While the most controversial play of the Red Sox’ 2013 season — the obstruction play — would not have been reviewable, there were some other plays throughout Boston’s memorable World Series campaign that likely would have been overturned if expanded instant replay was implemented a year earlier. Certain reversals obviously would have had bigger ramifications than others, but it’s still interesting to see what might have played out differently. (Then again, with how the season ended, Red Sox fans definitely don’t have too much to complain about this winter.)
The following plays from the Red Sox’ 2013 season are among those that likely would have been overturned via instant replay if they happened in 2014 or beyond.
Sam Holbrook calls out Stephen Drew at second base despite Jurickson Profar clearly missing the tag. (June 5 versus Texas Rangers)
The Red Sox defeated the Texas Rangers, 17-5, on June 4. Runs were much more difficult to obtain the following day, though, so running into outs proved even more costly.
Stephen Drew thought he had a double to lead off the bottom of the third inning in a scoreless game on June 5. Second base umpire Sam Holbrook saw things differently, though, as he called out Drew at second base despite Rangers shortstop Jurickson Profar clearly missing the tag.
It was a bang-bang play, with both Drew and Profar diving toward second base, but replays showed that the wrong call was made. Drew should have had a leadoff double. Instead, he and Red Sox manager John Farrell were left disputing the call to no avail.
The game remained scoreless for the time being, and the Rangers eventually earned a 3-2 victory.
Daniel Nava’s “catch” ruled an error despite the drop occurring on the transfer. (June 23 vs. Detroit Tigers)
This play led to John Farrell’s first ejection as manager of the Red Sox.
Avaisail Garcia (then of the Detroit Tigers) hit a fly ball to right field with the score tied 4-4 in the bottom of the eighth inning. Daniel Nava made what appeared to be a basket catch. However, as Nava reached to grab the ball to throw it back toward the infield, the Red Sox right fielder dropped it. Second base umpire Mike DiMuro ruled the play a drop rather than a catch, and Garcia cruised into second base.
Farrell voiced his displeasure after the umpires refused to overturn the call, and the Red Sox skipper was sent to the showers. The Tigers — as fate would have have it — struck for three runs in the inning following the controversial call and prevailed 7-5.
“Yeah, I know I made the catch,” Nava said after the game. “You know, I’m not exactly sure on all the umpire rules as far as where everyone’s supposed to be, but that’s the ruling he made. It’s unfortunate. But I know what happened, and that’s what he saw happen. Obviously, he’s human and sometimes calls go your way, sometimes they don’t. That was just the case.”
Jerry Meals blows call on play at the plate. (July 29 vs. Tampa Bay Rays)
Home plate umpire Jerry Meals blew it, and he knew it.
Brandon Snyder — batting with one out, the Red Sox trailing 2-1 and the tying run at third base in the bottom of the eighth inning — hit a fly ball to left field that Tampa Bay Rays outfielder Sam Fuld grabbed. Fuld fired to the plate as Daniel Nava tagged up and stormed home in an attempt to tie the game at two apiece. Nava slid and clearly got his foot under catcher’s Jose Molina tag, but Meals didn’t see it that way.
Meals called Nava out, which prompted a major outburst from the Red Sox’ dugout. Farrell ran onto the field to contest the call, at which point he was ejected. Farrell said after the game that it was a “terrible” call, which Meals later admitted.
“What I saw was: Molina blocked the plate and Nava’s foot lifted,” Meals said after the game. “But in the replays, you could clearly see Nava’s foot got under for a split second and then lifted, so I was wrong on my decision. From the angle I had, I did not see his foot get under Molina’s shin guard.”
The play paved the way for a 2-1 Rays victory and, at the time, cost the Red Sox their lead in the American League East. It also sparked further debate about the use of expanded instant replay — something that Farrell has long been in favor of.
David Ortiz slides directly into tag at second base but still called safe. (Sept. 22 vs. Toronto Blue Jays)
This play didn’t mean much in the grand scheme of things. The Red Sox already had clinched the American League East, the Toronto Blue Jays were destined for a last-place finish and the blown call didn’t even lead to any changes on the scoreboard. But the call was hilariously awful and perfectly summed up the state of the two franchises.
David Ortiz — batting in the bottom of the third inning with one out and the Red Sox leading 4-1 — hit a lined shot off the base of the center field wall. Rajai Davis hurried to get it back in, and Ortiz literally slid right into the tag at second base. Second base umpire Larry Vanover apparently was blocked by the infielder, though, because he called Ortiz safe.
As mentioned, the play didn’t really matter, as R.A. Dickey struck out the next two hitters to escape the inning unscathed. The blown call caused quite the stir in the Fenway Park press box, though, because replays revealed that the play wasn’t even close. Ortiz was out by a mile.
The play occurred as part of a rough weekend for John Gibbons and the Blue Jays. Then again, every weekend was a tough weekend for the Jays in 2013.