Richard Justice

No obvious answers to question of expanded replay

Justice: No obvious answers to replay question

No obvious answers to question of expanded replay
DENVER -- Here are two words you probably don't want to read regarding baseball's use of instant replay.

It's complicated.

See? You were warned.

Sure, there's a different reality on talk radio, and that's true of most things. There's a noise storm the morning after a blown call.

They demand change, but there's almost never a, "Yes, but ..."

That's the part of the topic that deals with an assortment of issues, including pace of game and investing in ever-changing, costly technological systems

Welcome to Joe Torre's world.

Major League Baseball's executive vice president of baseball operations, Torre has immersed himself into the topic over the last 18 months.

He briefed Major League owners Thursday morning on the subject. He seems to be moving toward recommending that instant replay be expanded to include fair and foul balls as well as trap plays.

There's a challenge doing even that much. Because there's such a wide disparity in the number of television cameras in each ballpark, MLB would have to commit itself to upgrades in several parks.

Otherwise, there would be one standard of replay in a new park like Yankee Stadium and another in an older one like, say, the Oakland Coliseum.

"We're working through the process of determining what technology makes the most sense for us if we're going to expand," said Rob Manfred, MLB's executive vice president of labor relations and human resources. "You're not talking about $10,000. You're talking about a significant technology investment that would be made in 30 ballparks. You all have spent enough time in those ballparks that each one of 'em has their layouts, quirks, whatever we have to work through to deploy. It's all doable, but it's a significant project and investment."

As for Torre, he has yet to be convinced that the technology exists to implement additional replay without dramatically slowing the pace of a game.

"We certainly don't want to slow the game down," Torre said. "I know you want to get something right. I come from the old school, where you have 162 games, and whoever gets the benefit of a call, there's somebody getting hurt by the call. You play 162. Unfortunately, the managers only remember the ones [that didn't go their way]. They don't count those other ones."

He has met with an assortment of companies offering various technologies regarding instant replay. Some he likes, some he doesn't.

"Hopefully, by the end of the season, we'll have more information to see if it's going to make a difference," he said. "I can see in football and a shorter season where a game or two can influence the playoffs. You play 162 games. Usually if you're good enough you're going to get in the playoffs. If you're not, you're not. I think whatever you're hurt by this week, you're going to be benefited by next week. It doesn't mean if something makes sense we're not going to do it."

Beyond those decisions, there are larger questions. Should every close play at first base be reviewed? What about those phantom double-play pivots? Where's the cutoff?

If there's a consensus to do significantly more, how would it work? Would there be a fifth umpire monitoring television replays? Could there be a team of monitors in New York?

One of the surprising things about instant replay is that inside the game, it's not a huge topic. There's a storm of debate in the media after a bad call, but the tone is much calmer among the people most impacted.

Commissioner Bud Selig confers regularly with a group of current and former general managers, executives and players, and not a single one of them has ever told him instant replay is an urgent issue. Technology may one day present an obvious answer. Until then, there will be only baby steps.

Richard Justice is a columnist for Read his blog, Justice4U. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.