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MLB replay could be vastly improved with one small rule change

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The Washington Nationals may have lost their season on a play that was never intended to be part of the game.

MLB: NLDS-Chicago Cubs at Washington Nationals Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

In the eighth inning of last night’s winner take all circus game between the Cubs and Nationals, Washington catcher Jose Lobaton was picked off sliding back into first base by Cubs’ first baseman Anthony Rizzo when a slow motion replay determined his foot came off the bag for a split second. The exchange ended the Nationals’ last best chance to square the game, and ultimately contributed to the end of their season.

Sports Illustrated provided a good look at the situation with the replay embedded into this tweeted:

Here’s the problem: By the exact letter of the law, Lobaton was out, but nobody in their right mind wants to see this type of garbage playing a role in who advances in the postseason. Nowhere in the history of baseball was this play an out before replay, and nobody wanted to institute replay to make this play an out. It’s simply a byproduct of necessary evil.

I often hate hearing the phrase “in the spirit of the rule,” but oh boy does it ever apply here. As somebody who was pretty neutral in terms of the outcome of that game going in, I felt dirty watching Washington’s rally get wiped out in this fashion.

People within baseball don’t where this has led either. Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said on MLB Network radio that he doesn’t like the way replay is being used right now:

“Replay was designed to see if the runner beat the play or if he was actually out. Now the infielder keeps the tag on and it’s almost impossible to stay on the bag. That kind of bothers me about baseball.”

Longtime Fangraphs writer Dave Cameron called the play a disaster for MLB.

So now the question is what can MLB do about this?

I personally never want to see another baseball game decided in this fashion again, so here’s my suggestion: Make a rule in which a “safe zone” is activated directly above the bag once a base runner first touches the base. That “safe zone” will extend to the sky, and then will deactivate as soon as the player leaves the square coordinates of the bag.

So if a player safely touches the bag but comes in too hot and slides completely beyond the bag, they are out if they are tagged because the “safe zone” deactivates once they are no longer above the bag. If a team tries the hidden ball trick and the base runner willingly wanders off the base and is tagged, he’s out. However, if a player slides into the base and his foot pops up above the bag for a split second while the tag remains on, the runner is safe because they did not leave the “safe zone” that was activated above the bag when they first touched it.

This rule would be extremely easy to implement, speed up the game a tad (fewer reviews), and solve a terrible loop hole created by instant replay that nobody wants to see in the game.

Poll

Would you like to see MLB implement this rule in 2018?

This poll is closed

  • 61%
    Yes, I don’t want runners called out for coming off the bag for a split second.
    (257 votes)
  • 15%
    No, I like the rule the way it is now.
    (63 votes)
  • 22%
    No, I don’t like the rule but I’d rather see MLB solve it a different way.
    (95 votes)
415 votes total Vote Now