Most players, skippers in favor of replay
Those on the field agree use should be limited to home runs
HOUSTON -- For most of the season, instant replay was accepted by most baseball people as an inevitable part of the sport's future, but few could have guessed it would be implemented this quickly.
Major League Baseball's announcement on Tuesday that instant replay was not only ready to go but would also go into effect on Thursday had ballparks buzzing as uniformed personnel and executives weighed in on the topic.
Instant replay will be used only to determine disputed home run calls -- fair or foul, in or out of the ballpark, or those possibly marred by fan interference.
The new use of technology doesn't sit well with some baseball purists, but the majority of players and managers surveyed across the league agreed on two points: It's important to get the call right, and instant replay should be limited to home runs only. Leave the other calls -- balls and strikes, safe or out -- up to the umpires, without the help of a television screen.
"I think they made the right decision when it comes to home runs -- foul or fair," Nationals manager Manny Acta said. "The new dimensions and the way stadiums are built, it makes it very tough on the umpires. The good part is they are not taking the human element away. I like it. The human element has been around for 100 years and you just can't take it away. Maybe in 100 years, you may have a machine calling balls and strikes, but I don't want to see that."
Neither does Dodgers manager Joe Torre.
"I think if it just stands like this, [it is good]," he said. "It's tough to overturn safe and out. Then you'll get into ball and strike, then all of a sudden people have to pack more than a lunch to get here to the ballpark."
Replay will serve as a last resort. First, the umpire will make a call he feels to be a definitive one. Then, if a manager disagrees, they'll debate the call. If there still is no resolution, the crew chief will call his crew together to discuss. They'll take a short vote, and if they're split down the middle, they'll look at the instant replay.
If an umpire is 100 percent sure that his original call is the right one, he'll have no obligation to review the play.
That process appears to sit well with most.
"The umpires want to get the calls right," Houston catcher Brad Ausmus said. "They're not out there trying to stick it to any particular team. Their job depends on them getting the calls right, so I think the chiefs will be very fair and reasonable in deciding to use it. If they get together and can't figure out whether it was a home run or not definitively, that's when you go to the replay."
White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said he loves the idea of instant replay.
"Finally, somebody is going to help the umpires," he said. "You make the right decision and someone is going to get mad. It's going to help baseball and the umpires and obviously they are going to make the right decision. We don't have to watch TV for two hours and talk about the same thing."
But not everyone is in favor of the new rules. Tuesday's announcement drew a fair amount of criticism, from purists who don't want to tinker with the human element of the game, as well as from those worried about long delays while umpires are reviewing plays.
"This is not going to work," Cubs manager Lou Piniella said. "I shouldn't say it's not going to work. Put it this way: This could turn into a little bit of fiasco.
"All we get all spring is, 'Speed up the games.' I don't know how many directives I've had on speed up the game. This is certainly not going to speed up the game, is it? If it takes too long ... this isn't like football. I'll tell you what, it'll probably be used as a ploy by some managers just to freeze the pitcher for five or six minutes. To cool him off if he's going really well. Baseball's got to look at this thing carefully whatever they do. They really do."
Not surprisingly, players who have been wrongly robbed of home runs in the past are very much in favor of instant replay.
Just this year, the Marlins have had at least four occasions when home run judgments turned out to be incorrect. Most recently, on Aug. 22 in Arizona, Josh Willingham hit a drive to left that hit the rail just behind the wall, deflected off the top of the wall and came back into play. Willingham was credited with a triple.
"I think [instant replay is] a good thing," Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "Now that the ballparks are made real fan-friendly, there always is [the chance of] fan interference. You are always going to have fans leaning over. I think it could help."
Kansas City's Mark Teahen lost a home run last year at Detroit on a hit that bounced off a metal fence and went back on the field. Teahen was credited with a triple, but he's almost positive it was a home run.
Still, Teahen said he was torn on instant replay.
"The human element is what makes baseball the game it is and I definitely don't ever want the game to go to instant replay for close plays or anything like that or end up having the strike zone called by computer," he said. "I think the human element is important for baseball so as long as -- and I know this was an important part of the players' union agreeing to it -- we keep it limited only to home runs so we're not opening a Pandora's box."
Athletics outfielder Jack Cust, who had a call in Boston this year reversed after his ball bounced off the top of the Green Monster, expressed his support of instant replay. During that game against the Red Sox, Cust was initially ruled a triple before the umps got together and awarded him a home run.
"Any time the umps convene and talk about it, why not be sure and get it right?" he said. "For anything other than home runs, though, I think it'd be tough unless they had another ump up in the booth. Other calls, that's the human element part of the game, and I think they should just leave that alone."
Others wondered, why now? Getting calls right the last month of the season is all well and good, but what about the teams that lost out on wins because of blown calls earlier this year?
"I find it very strange that they would pick, with 30 games to go in the season, that they would start it now," Orioles manager Dave Trembley said. "I find that very peculiar. No. 1, if they wanted it so bad what took them so long to get it going and why wait until this particular point in time? I think they fudged on it because they originally said they were going to do it in the Arizona Fall League."
Others, however, see this as a better-late-than-never scenario.
"How many times has a team gone or not gone to the playoffs because of a one-game difference in the record?" Ausmus said. "It's important to get those right because that is something that is fixable through replay."
Alyson Footer is a reporter for MLB.com. MLB.com reporters contributed to this story. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.