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Could baseball be ready for replay?

Posted: Thursday, November 11, 2004

KEY BISCAYNE, Fla. Brian Cashman wanted to make this perfectly clear: The umpires were correct when they called Alex Rodriguez out for interference on that crazy play during the AL championship series.

''They got it completely right, 100 percent,'' the New York Yankees' general manager said this week.

''But you would hate to have a game, or a series or even a season come down to a play where they miss it and instant replay could have helped,'' he said. ''So as far as instant replay, I'm in favor of it.''

Now, after a pennant race and postseason dotted with reversed rulings, baseball will get another chance to see who else wants to give replay a look.

The topic is on the agenda for Thursday at the GM meetings. And there seems to be growing support among teams to join the NFL, NBA and NHL in using instant replay on calls such as fair or foul and homer or not, but definitely not balls and strikes.

''I think its time has come,'' Milwaukee assistant Gord Ash said. ''The technology has improved and is there. I think there's a place for it.''

Even if replay comes up for a formal vote it did not go very far last year when GMs debated it there's no assurance it would show up during games anytime soon.

''I don't see it,'' Bob Watson, vice president of on-field operations, said Wednesday. ''And I don't think the commissioner is in favor of it, either.''

Earlier in the day, GMs were briefed on plans to play a spring training game next March in Athens Baltimore probably would be involved and efforts to hold a World Cup-style tournament in early 2006.

They also talked about letting teams trade first-round draft choices and were told to be vigilant in verifying the ages of players signed in the Dominican Republic and Venezuela.

But with so many procedural issues to sift through this week, the prospect of adding instant replay is intriguing.

The Cincinnati Reds asked that replay be included on the agenda. Their executives have talked about it internally for a couple of years, and they've heard from other clubs lately.

''I think there seems to be some level of understanding that getting the play right is what underscores this thought process,'' Reds GM Dan O'Brien said. ''I don't think any of us have any idea of a timetable.''

Said Brad Kullman, the Reds' director of major league operations: ''It doesn't make sense that you might have a million fans out there watching on TV and knowing what happened while the umpires huddle without that benefit.''

That said, there's no guarantee that umpires would want it.

''My sense is no,'' said former ump Richie Garcia, now an umpire supervisor. ''I think we'd be fooling around with something that would take away from the game.

''Baseball is very traditional, but I'm not going to rule it out,'' he said.

Garcia worried that not every ballpark would be equipped with equal cameras to show replays from all angles. He also said he thought the concept of umpires huddling on close calls helped ''take away the idea of instant replay.''

Garcia was involved in one of the most disputed calls in October memory. He was working the right-field line in the 1996 ALCS when young fan Jeffrey Maier reached over the wall and grabbed the ball before Baltimore's Tony Tarasco could make a play, and it wound up as a home run for Derek Jeter.

This year, the umps eventually did make the right calls in key spots at the end of the year.

In mid-September, Manny Ramirez circled the bases after his drive to left field was ruled fair. Moments later, the umpires correctly said the Boston star's shot hooked foul.

In Game 6 of the ALCS, Mark Bellhorn's drive to left field was originally ruled in play after it hit a fan in the front row at Yankee Stadium. After the umpires got together, it was rightly called a home run.

Later in that game, Rodriguez wound up on second base after he swatted at Boston pitcher Bronson Arroyo's arm and knocked the ball loose. After all six umpires huddled, plate umpire Joe West said he had a better view than first-base ump Randy Marsh and called Rodriguez out.

New Seattle manager Mike Hargrove thinks replay on such plays might help.

''They got it right with A-Rod, but it could be a benefit,'' he said. ''I mean, I don't want to see us spend 15 minutes waiting on whether a ball is fair or foul. And not on balls and strikes. But I could see it happening on selected plays.''

Atlanta GM John Schuerholz looked forward to Thursday morning's debate.

''I think it's an appropriate topic to discuss,'' he said. ''With modern technology, it's worth talking about.

''I'm not sure how I ultimately feel about it,'' he said. ''But I'm open-minded, and want to hear what people have to say.''



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