Instant replay will be limited to home runs
Sometime soon, perhaps as early as the end of August, Major League Baseball will enter a new era, an electronic era well beyond center field cameras, radar guns and QuesTec. The era of instant replay will represent a fundamental shift in the way the game is called.On Wednesday, MLB officials and the World Umpires Association ratified an agreement for the use of instant replay. A source close to the negotiations said an agreement between MLB and the Players Association is expected to be ratified within 48 hours. From there, it's just a matter of time before the final touches are applied to the process in hopes of having it operating in an orderly manner for the most important time of the season -- October. "We're still working at it," said Bob DuPuy, MLB's president and chief operating officer.
The move to instant replay was hastened by a flurry of missed calls and controversial plays during a two-week period in May. Several of them came in highly visible games, including an ESPN Sunday Night game at Yankee Stadium when home plate umpire Bob Davidson overruled a home run call made by third-base umpire Mike Reilly, who had gotten the call right initially, as replays confirmed. Davidson was over 100 yards away from the play when he made the incorrect call, which, in football terms, was the equivalent of the back judge making an out-of-bounds call from one goal line to the other."I think it's a good idea if it can help out the umpires," said Twins manager Ron Gardenhire. "Some of these stadiums, especially the new ones, are so difficult to tell if a ball is a home run or not. I was in Detroit, standing in right center field, during early BP. Someone hit a ball that looked like it went over the fence. I said, 'That's a home run.' Then someone told me, 'No, it isn't. It hit the wall first.' These umpires have to make that call from 100 feet away, at least. I couldn't tell. I got it wrong, and I was 10 feet away." The players, on the whole, seem to be in favor of instant replay.
The umpires are in favor of it. Not because we've made a lot of mistakes, but because we can't see the calls, we can't see the plays.
--A source within the umpires
The only plays that will be reviewable will be home runs: Was it fair or foul? Did it clear the fence, or didn't it? The Steve Bartman play from the 2003 playoffs at Wrigley Field would not be reviewable, but the Jeffrey Maier play from the 1996 playoffs at Yankee Stadium would be reviewable. No other play is reviewable, and from all indications MLB is adamant that replay will not be expanded to cover anything beyond home run calls.In all 30 ballparks, there will be a television monitor and a phone line installed in a secured area, usually in a tunnel that leads from the field to the clubhouse area. When a replay is called for, usually one umpire -- but never all four of them -- will leave the field to look at the play on the monitor, assuring that at least one umpire will be on the field at all times.