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‘Neighborhood play’ not likely to be reviewable under expanded replay system

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(USA Today)

Major League Baseball took the first big step toward implementing an expanded video replay system back in November when the owners unanimously gave their approval. Now the league waits for the approval of the players’ and umpires' unions, which could come in the next few weeks, and perhaps even sooner if MLB officially agrees to a new request from the MLBPA to not include the "neighborhood play" among the reviewable plays.

Here’s what Fox Sports’ Jon Morosi tweeted on the development late Wednesday evening.

The "neighborhood play" is a force play at second base where the middle infielder catches the ball at or around the base, but never touches the base in an attempt to avoid contact and potential injury. It also betters their to chance to turn a double play because it gives a cleaner angle to make the relay throw. It's often a bang-bang play and always a judgment call for the umpire. Typically the benefit of the doubt goes to the fielder, but there are instances (and sometimes inconsistencies) where an umpire will rule the fielder strayed too far.

We saw it pop up a couple times during the postseason, most notably during the ALCS when Boston Red Sox Stephen Drew came well off the bag to secure a throw but still got the call. That ruling ended up helping Boston escape an already difficult inning without maximum damage. It also led to immediate questions about how MLB would handle the neighborhood play if a new replay system was eventually implemented.

Well, it appears we know the answer now, and we shouldn't be too surprised considering the renewed focus on protecting players from collisions.

Keeping it a purely judgment call should be a great relief for middle infielders because they won't have to change their styles or second guess their footwork around the base. It should also be a relief to the umpires because their task on those calls would be a lot more daunting with the thought of replay hanging over their head. It's just a much safer and much smarter way to handle the play, even if the calls themselves remain inconsistent.

Morosi also added this tidbit on another type of bang-bang call at second base.

This could prove complicated on quick transfers from glove hand to throwing hand, but often times quick replays do clarify if the fielder had possession of the ball. It should work out fine, just as long as MLB doesn't require the fielder to make a baseball move or get two feet in bounds.

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Mark Townsend is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at bigleaguestew@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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