Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Takeout Slide Down the Slippery Slope

The Law of Unexpected Consequences broke Ruben Tejada's leg.

I mean, sure, Chase Utley did the actual deed, no doubt finally releasing all that pent-up anger from when John Lannan broke his hand and knocked him out of the playoffs in 2007, but that's not the point. Or at least not this point.

The point is, we have replay now. Which is great, in that it helps umpires get calls right. 

Except, of course, the current replay system is, as designed, very easy to game. Which means that managers who previously had a sort of laissez-faire approach about stuff like The Neighborhood Play now feel compelled to weaponize their replay challenges in order to see if somebody left second base for a picosecond. 

[The neighborhood play exists, incidentally, as a sort of gentlemen's agreement to let second basemen get out of the way before they get murderated by onrushing baserunners, under the assumption they'd be perfectly capable of actually touching second 99% of the time if they wanted to.]

And because enough of these challenges have been successful, second basemen can no longer do the neighborhood play without fear of getting goinked by a replay challenge. So, they need to stay on the bag much longer and generally be much closer to the center of the action.

Which means that second basemen are forced, by the use of replay, to stay in the target zone of sliding behemoths for longer than the used to. And that means more of them are going to get hurt. 

None of which excuses Utley's barely legal Ty Cobbery, but still. If replay's not chewing up the neighborhood play, then Tejada isn't even in the same zip code as Utley's takeout slide and his leg doesn't look like a silly straw.

Part of my day job as a game designer has always been trying to anticipate what effect decision X has on seemingly unrelated scenarios Y and Z, just in case. You'd think by now, the people reponsible for the rules of some our country's biggest games would learn to do that, too.

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