By Skip Bayless
Page 2

Gary Sheffield was out by a mile of a half-step.

Obviously, the first-base ump blew the call. Replay after TV replay confirmed that Wednesday night's game at Yankee Stadium should have been over.

But, down 5-4 in the bottom of the ninth, the "Old" York Yankees lived. A single, a double and the score was tied. And the home team won it in the 10th, on a home run by the guy who used to be Jason Giambi.

New York Yankees
Jason Giambi's huge home run never would have happened with instant replay.

Pittsburgh was robbed.

The Pirates' Jose Mesa, who deserved a save, took the loss and took it hard. Of the Sheffield play, Mesa said: "It was an out – you could see it on the replay."

The Pirates could see it on clubhouse TV replays. We could see it all night and all morning on "SportsCenter" replays. But the umpires didn't have that advantage after the game's outcome flashed before their eyes.

They should have.

Baseball should have adopted replay officiating long before the NFL or the NBA. But of course, baseball sells its past, not its future. Baseball would sooner force managers to quit wearing player uniforms than make a change that would improve the game dramatically.

Baseball was made for replay.

My eyes were first opened to this by the rolling eyes of Texas.

Texas E. Schramm was known as the NFL's "godfather of instant replay." Tex Schramm pushed for NFL replay as early as 1975. When Schramm wasn't helping Pete Rozelle run the NFL through the 1960s, '70s and '80s, he was president and general manager of the Dallas Cowboys.

Schramm had no use for baseball – "a slow damn game." But in the summer of 1979, while campaigning for NFL replay officiating, Schramm made a harrumphing point to me about what he sarcastically referred to as "America's pastime."

Schramm said: "Baseball is already so slow that replay could fit in perfectly. I hear the so-called baseball 'purists' say, 'Oh, the human element has always been a part of our game.' So the purists enjoy mistakes? Balderdash!

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"The technology is available. Why not use it?"

Again, this was 26 years ago.

Until Schramm died about two years ago, he remained deeply frustrated with the NFL's execution of his beloved replay. He despised the concept of giving coaches a limited number of challenges. What if, Schramm said, a game-changing referee error occurs after challenges have been used up? What if a challenge from a legendary coach is more persuasive than one from an unproven coach?

Schramm wanted every controversial call reviewed solely by a replay official in a press box booth. Now, that happens only in the last two minutes.

Schramm did not want this replay official to be a permanent member of the officiating crew. That way, he wouldn't be friends with on-field refs and hesitate to overrule, and perhaps embarrass, them. Schramm wanted this official to take one or two quick looks at a debatable play – "just like you and I do in our living rooms" – and rule that the refs blew it or that the replay angles aren't completely conclusive.

Schramm said: "If you hire qualified people and empower them, it should be so quick and effective."

Instead, we have refs looking foolish by leaving the field to slip under a hood attached to a camera. For what often seems like five endless minutes, the ref debates various replay angles with the official in the press box. So critics condemn replay when they should be blaming the awkward process.

Still, you must admit that replay works. The NFL is a better game because of it. And the NBA has benefited from at least using replay to verify whether quarter-ending shots were released before the buzzer.

Bruce Bochy
At least as much time is wasted watching managers argue with the umpires anyway.

But baseball could benefit most of all.

As San Francisco manager Felipe Alou said recently: "A football is bigger than a baseball."

Meaning, it can often be even harder for the human eye to follow a speeding baseball. Which is why Alou maintains that a replay umpire up in a press box booth "should have the ability or the right to see a replay … with all the cameras we have now, I'd hate to have a [fan] in South Korea see that a guy caught the ball, and the people here don't see it."

At 70, Alou is as wise as any man in baseball. When he spoke out, his team had been victimized in back-to-back games by umpire errors that quickly would have been overturned by replay.

Now, rarely does a night pass when we don't see at least one lowlight of a highlight – a "you're blind, ump!" call. The Phillies' Mike Lieberthal was awarded a home run that even he later admitted didn't clear the fence. Replay! The Cardinals' Albert Pujols leaned into the stands to snag a foul pop after it clearly ricocheted off a Cardinals official sitting in a box seat. Replay!

I'm more of a perfectionist than a purist. Yet what could be purer than trying to get every call right?

Please, purists, don't give me that Abner Doubleday double-talk about how replay would slow down the game. Schramm was right: Unlike head coaches in other sports, managers are allowed (if not required by tradition and gamesmanship) to rush onto the field and argue any controversial call. No 15-yard penalty, like football. No technical foul, like basketball. Only if the manager gets profanely personal will he get ejected.

Preposterous.

These "challenges" are unlimited; these arguments have no time limit; and calls are almost never reversed, unless they involve ground rules.

But of course, managers going nose to nose with umpires is part of baseball's time-stands-still appeal. Your dad taught you to get a kick out of these confrontations, and now you're teaching your son and daughter, as they'll teach theirs.

But managers jawing with umpires wastes far more time than replay would. An independent ump up in the booth could settle the argument in a minute – two at the most. The best replay angle either clearly shows the player was out or safe – or it's inconclusive and the ump's bang-bang judgment stands.

Ron Blum

Replay couldn't be used on balls and strikes or baseball would turn into all-day cricket. But any other call that could affect the game's outcome would be reviewable – out or safe, fair or foul, caught or trapped, homer or not.

There were suspicions during October's Yankees-Red Sox American League Championship Series that Major League Baseball was using some crude sort of replay system. League officials denied this, but baseball insiders believed the umpires' crew chief could be alerted, perhaps by buzzer, when TV replays quickly showed a call had been blown.

Most notably, the umpires huddled after Alex Rodriguez swatted the ball out of Boston pitcher Bronson Arroyo's glove along the first-base line. The first-base ump, whose view was obstructed, allowed Rodriguez to continue safely to second base.

But after the crew discussed the play – and perhaps after the chief was buzzed – A-Rod was ruled out.

Here's hoping MLB officials were at least experimenting with replay.

You purists can keep your managers wearing uniforms and your players in 19th-century stirrup socks, your Wrigley and your Fenway. You can continue to romanticize Hall of Fame cheaters such as spitballer Gaylord Perry while damning the day Jose Canseco discovered steroids.

Just give me my replay ump.

No limited "challenges" for managers. No "just in the ninth or extra innings." Give me a Tex Schramm memorial replay official up in the press box for any tough call.

It's 2005.

Skip Bayless can be seen Monday through Friday on "Cold Pizza," ESPN2's morning show, and at 4 p.m. ET on ESPN's "1st & 10." His column appears twice weekly on Page 2. You can e-mail Skip here.



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