MLB Insider: Expanded replay in best interests of baseball

Posted Saturday, Aug. 17, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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More information Top five Dodgers: Historic 50-game stretch vaults them to top of the heap. Braves: Magic number to clinch NL East is already under 30. Pirates: At this point, some kind of playoff berth looks like a formality. Rangers: Must keep beating also-rans before schedule turns in September. Tigers: Rotation too good for Royals, Indians to overcome in AL Central. Bottom five Astros: Entering Saturday, had to go 23-18 to avoid 100-loss season. Marlins: Owner Loria still fuming after winning 2 of 3 at Kansas City. White Sox: Looking forward to an even more spectacularly bad 2014. Angels: Owner Moreno mulling $125 million deal for Alfonso Soriano. Phillies: Charlie Manuel takes fall for old team that needs an overhaul.

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Adam Rosales entered the weekend having not played a lick in either of his tours with the Texas Rangers, and he hadn’t exactly played a ton this season for the team that says it loves him so much that it designated him for assignment three times.

Angel Hernandez entered the weekend on the umpiring crew for the Rangers’ series against the Seattle Mariners, and players, coaches and executives shuddered.

Rosales and Hernandez share more than just the same general area at Rangers Ballpark. They have been connected since May 8, when Rosales hit a home run that Hernandez and his crew missed as it happened and missed again on instant replay.

“Everybody saw that the replay worked, except for that crew,” Rosales said Saturday. “I’m not sure if it was replay that didn’t work, or if human error is the question.”

No one in baseball is perfect, not the players or the managers, and certainly not the umpires. But while some from each group hem and haw about expanded replay, baseball needs it.

It’s on a fast track for the 2014 season after the quarterly owners meetings last week in Cooperstown, N.Y. The final step to implementation is getting 75 percent of club owners to approve it at their November quarterly meetings, and the players’ association and umpires’ union must also give their approval.

Sounds a lot like amending the U.S. Constitution. The most recent amendment, No. 27, was ratified in 1992, 203 years after the idea was first floated that congressmen and representatives can’t give themselves raises whenever they please.

Considering that the NFL, NHL, NBA, NCAA and professional tennis have previously incorporated replay, MLB’s foot-dragging isn’t too dissimilar.

But no sport is as rooted in its history as baseball. The game’s purists remain a steady and vocal lobby, and they have had the ear of Commissioner Bud Selig, even as he cups each one to better hear concerns from all sides.

Selig, though, has the ultimate trump card: the best interests of the game.

Performance-enhancing drugs have stained the game, so Selig seemingly has made it his life work to eliminate them.

He said that MLB will intervene in the stadium situation in St. Petersburg, Fla., where the Rays are contending annually in relative obscurity at their home ballpark. Tampa Bay needs MLB’s help.

(So does Oakland, which Selig knows but isn’t showing nearly the same initiative.)

Adding replay falls within the jurisdiction of the best interests of the game. It’s not like money is an issue for MLB, and technology has advanced to the point where every call can easily be reviewed.

Meanwhile, umpires seemingly have become increasingly worse as a whole, and the worst of the worst, hiding behind their union, keep working. Even the purists have to admit that is a major issue.

The greatest folly made by Hernandez, who rates as one of the players’ least favorite, occurred May 8 in Cleveland as he emerged from the replay room and incorrectly ruled Rosales had doubled off the top of the left-field wall when the right call was a home run.

“I see it on TV every once in a while, and it takes me back to that day,” Rosales said. “That call was a little upsetting.”

A little? A’s manager Bob Melvin’s head almost exploded.

Under the proposed replay system, each team would get three challenges — one through the sixth inning and two the rest of the game. Boundary calls would remain under the discretion of the umpires. So would balls and strikes, and calls like hit batsmen.

Baseball hasn’t outlined all the calls that would be subject to replay, but it claims that 89 percent of incorrect calls made in the past would be reviewable.

That won’t completely eliminate the human element that purists crave, and gaffes such as the one Hernandez made on Rosales’ deep drive in Cleveland could still occur.

But baseball needs expanded replay. The technology and money are there, and so are umpires like the lucky-to-have-a-job Hernandez and even the ones who are held in high regard who make mistakes less frequently.

Assuming the owners and the unions approve it, replay will make the game better.

“It’s going to be nice. There are some plays you see that you know for a fact that the guys was safe or was out,” Rangers manager Ron Washington said. “Not only is it giving you as a manager a chance to do some challenging, but also it will give umpires a chance to focus on their job, too.”

Jeff Wilson, 817-390-7760 Twitter: @JeffWilson

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