History is made on MLB Opening Day nearly every year, but this one is pretty significant.
During the first game of the season for the Atlanta Braves, manager Fredi Gonzalez decided that a play was too close to call in the bottom of the sixth inning against the Milwaukee Brewers and chose to challenge the ruling on a play at first base.
Mark Bowman of MLB.com broke down the situation for the Braves and Gonzalez:
We'll have our first challenge and it looks like the #Braves will win this one.— Mark Bowman (@mlbbowman) March 31, 2014
The decision to challenge was hardly the first of the season, with several other games already taking place and one also coming earlier in the day in the game between the Chicago Cubs and Pittsburgh Pirates.
But what came next would make MLB history, as the call was overruled, marking the first time it had ever been done. Bowman and Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported the decision:
The #Braves do indeed win the challenge. After a quick review umps reversed Greg Gibson's call at first base.— Mark Bowman (@mlbbowman) March 31, 2014
And we have an overturned umpires call at Miller Park. Braun is ruled out on Braves challenge. And he did look out.— Tom (@Haudricourt) March 31, 2014
While Gonzalez and the Braves will go down as the first manager and team to correctly have a call reversed, Greg Gibson will be remembered as the first umpire to have one overturned.
Instant replay was added to baseball during the offseason after several years of debate as to whether it should be implemented. Initial thoughts were that it would take too long for the replay to take place, but in the first few games it hasn't affected the pace of the game.
Todd Rosiak of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports the time of the challenge:
Official time of the challenge: 58 seconds. Braves earn a second challenge now.— Todd Rosiak (@Todd_Rosiak) March 31, 2014
That really killed the pace of the game.
Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig spoke about the decision to implement the system, per the MLB press release (via MLB.com):
I am very pleased that instant replay will expand to include additional impactful plays. The new system will give managers valuable recourse in potentially game-changing situations. The opportunity for our fans to see more replays in our ballparks is also an important modification that the Clubs and I favored.
After the first challenge was won by Gonzalez, the manager was rewarded with another to use throughout the game, as David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution explains:
Because #Braves Fredi G won the challenge, can use another one— David O'Brien (@ajcbraves) March 31, 2014
Though the challenge was awarded, it likely wouldn't be necessary during the remainder of the game as umpires are allowed to review any play from the seventh inning and beyond.
The rules set up much like the NFL replay system, and it will likely work just the same. While the MLB fought against having a full replay system for years, it seems to be going smoothly and working correctly, which will be great for the full length of the season.
As managers grow more comfortable with the system and the umpires work out any kinks that still remain, the change will be perfected over the summer and nearly flawless by the time the playoffs roll around.
Gonzalez may be the first manager to have a call successfully overturned outside of a home run, but there will be many more during the season as the game continues to move in the right direction.
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