Umpires' acumen keeps instant replay at bay

Posted: Friday, November 12, 2004

KEY BISCAYNE, Fla. Upon further review, baseball will hold off on taking a look at instant replay.

After watching umpires reverse almost every missed call in the postseason, major league general managers split 15-15 Thursday on whether to keep exploring the subject.

''Based on that vote, it's unlikely we'll do anything substantive in the next year to pursue instant replay,'' MLB executive vice president Sandy Alderson said.

The NFL, NBA and NHL all use some form of replay. Baseball commissioner Bud Selig is adamantly against it and can veto any proposal by anyone to give it a try.

''I understand that vote today, that there are people who want to keep looking at it,'' Selig said. ''I'm not afraid to change. You never say never.

''But the humanness of the umpires is part of the game,'' he said. ''I'm satisfied where it is. I just don't think it would be a positive addition.''

Replay opponents got a boost in October when umpires overturned a pair of rulings in Game 6 of the AL championship series. TV gave fans a clear view of what happened once the six umps huddled, it came into focus for them, too, and Alex Rodriguez was declared out because of interference on one play and Mark Bellhorn got a home run on the other.

''Had they gotten those calls wrong, would there have been more interest in pursuing instant replay? There might've been,'' Alderson said.

With that issue over for now, GMs turned their attention back to the main business at hand. That is, looking at trades and free agents.

Chicago Cubs slugger Sammy Sosa seemed to interest the New York Mets, and those teams talked for a second straight day, holding a late-afternoon session. Randy Johnson may want to leave the cost-cutting Arizona Diamondbacks for a contender. And there was speculation the Texas Rangers would consider dealing Alfonso Soriano.

''Once you get to a second meeting, things can happen,'' Mets GM Omar Minaya said.

Roger Clemens and Pat Hentgen became the last two of 207 players to file for free agency. Starting Friday, clubs can talk money with any free agent.

The New York Yankees, as always, figure to be extremely active. Their immediate targets will be center fielder Carlos Beltran and pitchers Carl Pavano, Eric Milton and Ron Villone.

Other teams packed up and headed home from the session that began Monday. The gathering ends Friday morning, with a briefing from MLB security head Kevin Hallinan on issues related to kidnapping concerns in other countries, and a few other topics.

Alderson and umpire supervisor Rich Rieker made a presentation to the GMs on Thursday, showing that nine-inning games were played in an average of 2 hours, 47 minutes, up a minute from 2003.

In something that could someday lead to a speed up, the Arizona Fall League is experimenting with a rule requiring hitters to keep one foot in the batter's box, rather than stepping out after each pitch. The penalty is an automatic strike, and Alderson said the rule might get a tryout in a low minor league next season.

Alderson said that according to the QuesTec computer system, umpires correctly called more than 93 percent of the 120,026 pitches that were either judged balls or strikes. And they said that all 68 umpires met the expected standard of at least 90 percent.

The percentage was much more mixed when it came to instant replay, which could be used on ''boundary calls'' whether a ball was fair or foul, or whether it cleared a wall or not.

Cincinnati Reds GM Dan O'Brien spoke in favor, Expos GM Jim Bowden spoke against.

''I was the first one for it, back when the NFL went to replay about seven years ago. The first time it came up for a vote, I was the only one who voted for it,'' Bowden said. ''But now, the umpires showed they can get it right. There are no egos anymore, with an umpire standing on his call.''

Said O'Brien: ''It's still unresolved.''

Along with the Rodriguez and Bellhorn plays, umpires reversed a ruling in Game 1 of the opening round between New York and Minnesota, taking away a home run from the Yankees' Ruben Sierra after his foul ball initially was called fair.

The only postseason play the umpires missed after a huddle came in Game 3 of the NL first-round series between St. Louis and Los Angeles.

Dodgers pitcher Jose Lima bunted, and the ball bounced up and again hit his bat as he left the batter's box, meaning it should have been ruled a foul ball or he should have been called out. Instead, the play continued and Lima reached base when Cardinals missed on a force play at second base.

As for future GMs votes on replay, Alderson said, it's ''year to year.''



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