Baseball made right call

BOB ELLIOTT -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:19 AM ET

Well done.

Major League Baseball took a large step forward yesterday, approving the long-discussed instant replay on home runs.

Did a fan reach over and prevent an outfielder from making a backhanded grab?

Did the ball bounce off the cement overhang or the centre-field wall?

Did an ump loose sight of a ball in a sea of white shirts in the bleachers and miss a call?

We shall have the final answers to all of those questions and they will be the correct ones, starting with series that begin tomorrow.

The Blue Jays will be free to examine replays Friday night at the big ball park in the Bronx.

As we wrote in November, when general managers voted 25-5 in favour, taking a second look at "boundary calls" is a good idea.

That's about as far into the replay world baseball should step.

Whether a home run is fair or foul is one thing which can be examined quickly. It is a yes or no answer.

Baseball has to stay as far away from all other calls than it is from Barry Bonds.

A bang-bang call at second? Never mind, let the guy eight feet from the base get it right.

A runner slides head long into first and a call is made? Let is stand.

A ball down the line and appears to hit the chalk? Whatever, we don't need no stinkin' replays.

Why? First, the umpires do an excellent job.

Baseball should trust the judgment of the men in blue.

Next time you watch a game on TV, make a call yourself. That check swing Lyle Overbay tried to hold up on ... no way it was a strike.

Yet when you see the replay, his hands did cross the plate.

The tag play ... it looked like Rod Barajas applied it on the chest and the runner was out. Wait a sec, the replay showed the runner's foot already was on the plate.

Borrowing from the NHL's game plan on replays ("their centralized system worked best," a baseball official said), each MLB game will be monitored in New York. If a crew chief wants to check if a ball is fair or foul, if the ball has left the field, or if fan interference was involved, they will go to the replay.

A TV monitor and a secure phone link to New York have been installed at all 30 parks. If the ump wants a look, New York will transmit video footage.

After the call is examined, MLB says there won't be any more arguing.

Nope. Just ejections.

"How many times have you seen umps huddle after a disputed homer and the only guys watching the game not seeing a replay are the four guys trying to get it right?" asked an executive in favour of instant replay on home runs.

Commissioner Bud Selig, long against instant replay, turned the matter over to the GMs to decide.

Third-base ump Mike Reilly got a home run call right off the bat of the New York Mets' Carlos Deladgo in May on an ESPN Sunday night game at Yankee Stadium, but home plate umpire Bob Davidson overruled him.

The most memorable missed call was Game 1 of the 1996 American League Championship Series when fan Jeffrey Maier, 12, of Old Tappan, N.J., stuck his glove over the fence, made a sweeping attempt to catch a Derek Jeter fly, knocked it away from right fielder Tony Tarasco and into the seats.

Right-field ump Richie Garcia ruled a homer whereas a second look would have ruled an out. O's manager Davey Johnson was ejected.

The Yanks won 5-4 in 11 innings and were on the way to beating Baltimore in five games.

On the day of the Futures Game at Yankee Stadium this summer, a writer approached Johnson, now managing Team USA.

"Hey Davey, right there," he said pointing to right. "That's where they stole one on you."

Johnson, who like any manager has an elephant-like memory, rolled his eyes.

As a start, this is a good end.

If MLB tries to get its foot in the door further and we see instant replay on balls and strikes, get ready for six-hour games, with Tony La Russa appealing every pitch to upset the opposing pitcher.


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