The game of baseball has changed a lot through the years. We now have clocks in stadiums, with time limits on just about everything. But the addition of instant replay the past few years has taken away something most fans loved.
We no longer have rhubarbs in baseball, when players or managers go off on umpires after a bad or disputed call. The days of close plays at first base followed by a manager rushing out of the dugout to get nose-to-nose with an ump are long gone.
Now all we usually see is managers signaling to umpires to put the headsets on to check with people who will look at 10 different angles to get the call right.
Don’t get me wrong. To know most of the calls are made correctly is a good thing. But it has taken something out of the game that was very entertaining — two people screaming and hollering obscenities at each other that usually fire up the crowd and maybe even the team itself.
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When I was a kid, it was always fun watching New York Yankees manager Billy Martin go nuts or even Baltimore’s Earl Weaver put on a show. They were legendary for their on-field antics, which sometimes included picking up bases or kicking dirt on the umpires.
We were lucky to watch the master of baseball ejections with Bobby Cox, the former Atlanta skipper who holds the record for being tossed more than any other manager. Cox was thrown out of 158 regular-season games and even three more times in the postseason.
Cox likely didn’t always think the umpire was dead wrong on a call, and you wonder how many times he believed a little fire might wake up his team. Tom Glavine has told a story about how Cox once realized an umpire was squeezing him on ball and strike calls, and within the next inning, Cox was tossed for taking up for his pitcher.
Replay has killed most of that. There’s no longer any reason to argue close plays at a bag. Forget about any argument about whether a ball is caught or not. Now, it’s usually taken care of by simply watching the replay.
This past week we got a blast from the past, as Atlanta interim manager Brian Snitker went ballistic after a horrific replay decision. Emilio Bonifacio came home on a sacrifice fly from shallow left field. He was called out, but the replay showed he was safe and that the catcher had blocked home plate — something catchers can’t do anymore.
But some rocket scientist in New York did not change the call. Technically, managers aren’t even supposed to come out for an explanation. But Snitker came out of the dugout, and then he went crazy.
It was great. Snitker’s players loved seeing him take up for them. That was an important play. The Braves would have tied the game if they had changed the call, so Snitker threw a tantrum — and rightfully so.
It wasn’t a surprise that an inning later Adonis Garcia hit a home run to give Atlanta the lead, which it held and won the game. Players said Snitker’s scene fired them up. They complimented him for standing up for the team.
That was great for Snitker, an interim manager who would likely love to stick around for a while. Fans reacted positively to the ruckus, too, thinking it had been five-plus years since they have seen an Atlanta manager with a pulse.
Sometimes it’s just good to see energy from a team, and if the manager has to push the buttons by showing himself in a rhubarb, so be it. Truthfully, for a team that hasn’t had many highlights this season, it was rather fun to watch Snitker lose it. He had reason to, but unfortunately it’s not something we’ll see much of anymore with replay now the norm.
Listen to “The Bill Shanks Show” from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on “Middle Georgia’s ESPN” – 93.1 FM in Macon and 99.5 FM in Warner Robins. Follow Bill at twitter.com/BillShanks and email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.