The game we love is changing.
In the Brewers’ recent series Rickie Weeks stretched a single into a double and was nailed at second. Weeks thought he was safe.
Usually, Weeks would have been in the umpire’s face, with the manager bolting from the dugout. But Weeks never looked at the ump.
He popped up from the bag, looked toward the dugout, and twirled his hand in the air, signaling for a replay.
Out comes the manager, walking slowly, hands in his pockets.
The Brewers’ skipper, Ron Roenicke, then engaged in a conversation with the umpire, as if he had met his neighbor out front and was describing his family’s vacation at the Shore.
Roenicke positioned himself with the ump so he could look into the Brewers’ dugout. As the ump and Roenicke spoke, you could see Roenicke looking toward the dugout.
When the camera focused on the dugout, the bench coach was on the phone.
The bench coach hangs up and signals to the manager not to request a replay — a thumbs down signal. Roenicke then nodded at the umpire and walked away.
If the bench coach had given Roenicke the plus sign — thumbs up — Roenicke would have requested a replay review. Obviously, a Brewer official was looking at the video of the Weeks play and told the bench coach not to request a replay.
According to baseball rules, managers get one replay review request a game. If it’s right, he get’s another. It should be noted that a manager can confront an umpire without requesting a replay.
Some managers — I remember from watching Doc Heaps at Mansfield — will work an ump’s favor by yelling and screaming, face to face, hoping it will get his team better treatment on the next close call.
Here’s something else that’s changed this season: Blocking the plate.
Before, catchers could block home plate with their legs and body, even without the ball. Not any more. The new rule states that catchers cannot block the plate if they don’t have the ball in hand, or, in glove.
In Sunday’s game, center fielder Tony Gwynn, Jr., tried to score from second on Chase Utley’s double.
Gwynn was barreling down on Marlins catcher Jeff Mathis, who was blocking home plate in the customary way — down on a knee, left leg outstretched in front of the plate. Only, the ball had not yet arrived, so therefore Mathis was illegal, correct?
Not so fast.
Gwynn and the ball arrived at the plate about the same time and Gwynn was called out.
Ryne Sandberg argued that since Mathis was blocking the plate without the ball, Gwynn should be safe. The ump, however, ruled that Gwynn hadn’t started his slide when the ball-less Mathis was blocking, therefore, the rule didn’t apply.
Sandberg and Gwynn argued that when the rule was explained back in spring training, it was never stated that the runner had to be in a slide. If you find this confusing, you’re not alone.
It’s a new game, why should you be surprised?