6-13-08 -- Instant replay might be coming to Major League Baseball in an instant.
Moving faster than expected and coming after a rash of blown calls, baseball wants to put replay into effect by August for home run disputes in hopes of fine-tuning the system by the playoffs.
MLB and the umpires’ union need to reach agreement before replay can be tried, and the sides have started talking. Previously, it was thought replay would get its first look in the Arizona Fall League and then the 2009 World Baseball Classic.
“The game needs it and I think it does need it soon,” Chicago Cubs pitcher Jon Lieber said Friday before a game at Toronto. “With technology the way it is today, there’s no reason why it shouldn’t be a part of the game.”
Jimmie Lee Solomon, MLB’s executive vice president for baseball operations, is pushing for replay by Aug. 1; Rob Manfred, MLB’s executive vice president of labor relations, suggested Aug. 15.
“It’s all still premature,” MLB spokesman Rich Levin said Friday. “A final decision has not been made.”
USA Today first reported on its Web site Friday that baseball planned to use replay this season, saying MLB wanted it by Aug. 1.
“I don’t think it’s needed at all, to be honest,” Cubs manager Lou Piniella said Friday. “How many times do you see players make errors? Baseball has talked about speeding up the game. It’s all you hear. All of a sudden, they want instant replay? You’re going to have slower games and more restless people in the stands.”
Commissioner Bud Selig will ultimately decide when MLB wants to put replay in place. A staunch opponent in the past, a spate of missed boundary calls— fair or foul, over the fence or not—last month left Selig leaning toward its limited use.
The NFL, NBA, NHL, some NCAA sports and major tennis tournaments all employ replay in various forms.
A person briefed on MLB’s preliminary plan told The Associated Press that baseball wants to create an NHL-style “war room” in New York where video feeds would be reviewed by a supervisor. The umpire crew chief wouldn’t see replays— instead, the supervisor would describe what he saw, but leave it up to the umpire to make the final call.
It was not certain whether managers, umpires or the video supervisor would ask for a replay, said the person, who spoke on condition of anonymity because negotiations were in progress.
Last month, after Carlos Delgado of the New York Mets and Alex Rodriguez of the New York lost home runs because of missed calls, umpires said they were open for discussion.
“We’d be all in favor of listening to whatever proposals they might have,” veteran ump John Hirschbeck, president of the World Umpires Association, said then.
Umpires, however, remain adamant that they do not want replay used to review close plays on the bases or ball-and-strike calls.
“I think the umpires do a good job on it. If they would like some additional help, I would find nothing wrong with it,” Baltimore hitting coach Terry Crowley said Friday night before the Orioles played Pittsburgh. “Every once in a while they get one wrong, but I would bet they get 99 out of 100 right, probably more.”
Last November, general managers voted 25-5 to try replay on boundary calls. At the time, Selig took the recommendation under advisement.
Selig, like many of the game’s traditionalists, always liked the human element of baseball, and that meant tolerating an occasional wrong call by an umpire. He also worried about further bogging down a sport that has been criticized for its slow pace.
Count Pittsburgh outfielder Jason Michaels in that corner.
“Here’s the thing: I guess I’m old school, but I think human error is part of the game,” he said. “It’s always been that way. I would think I’d be against it.”
In recent years, the new and cozy ballparks have made it more difficult for umpires with their quirky dimensions, odd angles and yellow lines that denote home runs.
“As I’ve said before, tradition is a wonderful thing, but it can also be an ump killer,” Colorado manager Clint Hurdle said before the Rockies played at the Chicago White Sox.
“We’re putting these umps in a very difficult position making a call that is already challenging just because of the dynamic of the play. We live in a technological society right now that we can get it right. The guy at home sees it right. That for me is where it really gets confusing. You can sit in your chair at home and make the right call, but the man getting paid who’s the expert is put in a box where you don’t know.”
AP Sports Writers David Ginsburg in Baltimore and Andrew Seligman in Chicago and AP freelance writer Ian Harrison in Toronto contributed to this report.