CHICAGO — Yes, John Farrell will be fined for his comments disparaging the replay system after a couple of calls went against the Red Sox at Yankee Stadium over the weekend.
But Hall of Fame manager Tony La Russa, who works with Joe Torre on the baseball operations side of Major League Baseball and helped devise the instant replay system, said he had an extremely impressive phone conversation with Farrell Tuesday.
“When someone of John’s impact in this game says something about the replay system, it carries a lot of impact,” said La Russa. “I don’t know about the fine, that’s something Joe will handle with John. I know whenever I said something disparaging about the integrity of the game or the process I got fined.
“But what’s important here — and I told John this — I was very happy that he reacted naturally to the call with the umpires. What we don’t want is to stifle the managers. I commended John for getting upset. We don’t want to take the emotion out of this.”
After being thrown out of Sunday night’s game for arguing the replay decision to overturn an out and allow a Yankee run to score, Farrell said that “it was hard to trust the replay system.” That comment will incur the fine.
La Russa did differ with Farrell’s opinion that the replay on the play at first base was inconclusive.
After speaking with La Russa, Farrell said, “I stand by what I said.
“While I understand the umpires are schooled to hear the ball hitting the back of the glove, they’re looking at the foot and its placement in relation to the bag, but when we were educated on review process, the timing of those two events, there’s a point where it’s in the glove and that it’s considered a catch. I have to go by what we were instructed on.”
La Russa said that, for the umpire, the indication that the fielder has caught the ball is the sound of the ball hitting the back of the mitt. The replay showed that, while it was close, the runner had hit the bag before the ball had hit the back of the mitt.
Farrell had to feel a bit better about replay after a White Sox challenge in the second inning of Tuesday night’s game was rejected.
Jose Abreu was called out on a ground ball that shortstop Xander Bogaerts threw wide of the first-base bag, seemingly pulling Mike Napoli off. The replay seemed to show Napoli coming off the bag, but replay officials took 2 minutes 18 seconds to decide that it was an out as called. Right after that, Adam Dunn hit a solo homer off Jake Peavy. It could have been a two-run shot, which couldn’t have pleased White Sox skipper Robin Ventura.
La Russa called his conversation with Farrell a complete learning experience that he would share with the other teams. And while the Red Sox and Farrell may not feel the replay system is a success so far, La Russa is very pleased with the first two weeks.
“We expected more glitches,” La Russa said. “We expected worse than what we’ve experienced. It’s not perfect, for sure, but I think there are things we’re going to be able to improve on and make this better.”
Through Monday, replays had resulted in confirmed calls on 33 of 88 challenges, while 30 calls were overturned. A determination of “inconclusive video” resulted in 25 upheld calls.
“We’ve had really very little controversy overall,” commissioner Bud Selig told reporters at Tuesday’s MLB Diversity Business Summit in New York. “Everything in life will have a little glitch here and there where you do something new. And are our guys on top of it? You bet.
“But I’m saying to you again, you’ll hear about the one or two controversies, but look at all the calls that have been overturned.”
La Russa said that MLB is not afraid to make a call quickly and reverse it before the next pitch as the video evidence comes in. MLB also admitted it got a call in Saturday’s Red Sox-Yankees game wrong.
That was the play when Yankees shortstop Dean Anna overslid second base after a double in the eighth inning and Xander Bogaerts applied the tag. The call on the field was that Anna was safe, and when Farrell challenged, the replay official upheld the ruling, despite several angles seemingly showing it was incorrect.
La Russa said there will come a time when replay officials will be able to receive continual feeds and can reverse a decision before the next pitch is thrown.
“We want to get it right,” La Russa said. “We’re not going to feel embarrassed doing that.”
“We’re in those growing pains,” said Farrell. “I can’t say whether there are going to be any adjustments or changes based on what we’ve experienced over the weekend. Overall it was a good conversation.”
While La Russa praised Farrell’s emotion on the call, Farrell himself said that one of the byproducts of the new system is taking that element away.
“There are things that have come about with the advent of replay that might not have been anticipated, and that is the emotion has been taken out of the game — there are no more arguments, seemingly, to a point in theory,” said Farrell as reporters laughed.
“The transfer play is one, as well as blocking of home plate. So we’re in a period of change in the game and that will require time.”
La Russa conceded that blocking the plate likely has caused the biggest debate so far. What constitutes blocking the plate? La Russa said he has seen catchers correctly putting their foot on the third base line and leaving a path for the baserunner, though “the baserunner is allowed to knock that foot off.”
But there have been other instances in which the catcher continues to block the entire path.
Farrell has told his team that as far as he’s concerned, nothing has changed as long as the base runner doesn’t deviate from the basepath.
“I still think there’s a point where when the catcher is about to catch the ball that he’s going to have to block the plate,” Farrell said.
In creating a controversy, Farrell seemed to earn the respect of La Russa. He brought emotion to replay. La Russa acknowledged that while formulating the replay system, MLB officials hoped natural reactions and manager-umpire conflicts would not be ended.
And La Russa, one of the greatest managers of all-time, also heaped huge praise on Farrell.
“The Red Sox did a great job picking him,” La Russa said. “He was a great teammate, a great coach, and now he’s a hell of a manager who led them to a championship.
“What he says has impact. I enjoyed the conversation. What John has to say is important.”Nick Cafardo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @nickcafardo.