Ump: MLB can set 'gold standard' in use of replay

Updated: May 30, 2008, 1:37 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

The NFL, NBA, NHL, some NCAA sports and major tennis tournaments all employ a form of instant replay.

And there's Major League Baseball, which has forgone replay over the years but has the potential to set the highest standard of the practice if it maximizes the technology, an umpire supervisor said Thursday.

"Replay is coming," Rich Rieker, who serves as a liaison between MLB and its umpires, wrote in a chat with the Houston Chronicle's Web site. "If done properly we have an opportunity to set the gold standard in replay, learning from pros and cons from other sports. But we must do so in a fashion that will not delay the game further."

MLB is making tentative plans to experiment with replay in the Arizona Fall League, a baseball official with knowledge of those discussions told ESPN.com recently. If successful, MLB then is likely to continue the experiment next March during the World Baseball Classic and spring training games.

If no insurmountable problems arise, baseball could begin using replay -- though only to decide home run calls -- as soon as next season.

The idea of replay has gained momentum after umpires botched several home run rulings on national TV earlier this month.

• At Yankee Stadium, umpires reversed their correct call and concluded a home run by the Mets' Carlos Delgado was foul.

• The following night in Houston, umpires mistakenly ruled a ball off a center-field wall was in play, prompting a reconfiguration at Minute Maid Park the next day.

• And, again at Yankee Stadium, a ball hit by Alex Rodriguez that struck a stairway beyond the outfield fence and bounced back into the outfield was ruled a double when it should have been a home run.

A top baseball official confirmed to The Associated Press that he will formulate a proposal for replay, although he wouldn't put a timetable on a replay plan.

"The times are such that our fans are used to seeing all the high technology and they're used to seeing the other sports that use these systems to make determinations, and the fans are clamoring for all the sports to look at that," said Jimmie Lee Solomon, the sport's executive vice president for baseball operations.

Baseball also is calling for games, which border on an average of three hours each, to be sped up. During his chat, Rieker, a major league umpire for nine seasons before becoming MLB's supervisor of umpires, was asked if the plate ump would be the one to use replay.

"Probably not," he wrote in his Chronicle chat. "Use of a possible replay official could come into play and we really don't want to take the umpires off the field to look at replays.

"Replay could slow down the game, but it could also eliminate unnecessary arguments. So there might be a canceling effect. But surely, there will be some delay."

Last November, general managers voted 25-5 to try replay on boundary calls -- whether possible homers are fair or foul, if balls actually clear fences, whether there's fan interference. The recommendation went to commissioner Bud Selig, but had no binding effect or time frame.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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