A-Rod's homer an instant replay first
Umpires do not change on-field call after using new system
ST. PETERSBURG -- More than three months after Alex Rodriguez lost a home run on a disputed call, Major League umpires were able to use the new instant-replay system to ensure the third baseman was credited with one in the Bombers' 8-4 victory Wednesday.
"There's probably 800 players in the big leagues, and the odds of me being involved were probably 2-1. It's funny," Rodriguez said. "Somehow I find myself in those situations all the time. It was just nice to get the right call and get a fair ruling."
Facing Rays right-hander Troy Percival, Rodriguez hit a drive to left field in the ninth inning at Tropicana Field that struck the D-ring catwalk high above the domed stadium, with a home run signaled as the immediate call by third-base umpire Brian Runge.
With catcher Dioner Navarro protesting, Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon emerged from the dugout as Rodriguez rounded the bases. He requested that crew chief Charlie Reliford, the second-base umpire, look at a replay using the new system, which was implemented on Thursday but had not yet been used in a game.
"We all believed it was a home run," Reliford said. "But since the technology is in place, we made the decision to use the technology and go look at the replays. And the replays we reviewed were conclusive that the call we made was correct."
Reliford left the field briefly through the third-base dugout while an announcement was made that replay was being used, a message that was greeted with cheers from the crowd of 25,215.
"It was interesting. I didn't see [Maddon] react right away," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "I think he reacted when Navarro reacted. That made me think it was fair. I figured it was a home run; Alex figured it was a home run. I didn't have any doubt there was going to be a home run."
The replay took two minutes and 15 seconds, and Reliford's review backed up the original on-field call, crediting Rodriguez with his 549th career home run, passing Mike Schmidt for sole possession of 12th place on baseball's all-time list. The shot, a two-run homer that came with Bobby Abreu on base, gave New York an 8-3 lead.
"It was pretty time-efficient, and that was good," Rodriguez said. "Sometimes they meet for four or five minutes. Today probably saved us about four or five minutes, and they got it right. They feel good about it, and we definitely feel good about it."
"Our games go so long anyways, a couple of minutes isn't going to be a big deal," Johnny Damon said.
Rodriguez said he had a feeling the play might be replayed, as he watched the drive sail out of the park and waited at home plate until the home run was confirmed.
"I was really staying focused, because I knew it was probably going to be replayed," Rodriguez said. "I didn't want to break my concentration. In a three-run ballgame in the ninth, you want to make sure you stay focused. Once they got the call on instant replay, then I relaxed."
On May 21, umpires took a home run away from Rodriguez at Yankee Stadium, when he hit a ball off a set of yellow stairs past the fence in right-center field. The ball bounced back on to the field, and Rodriguez was forced to speed up and slide into second base with a double.
The lost long ball did not affect the outcome of an 8-0 Yankees victory over the Orioles, but it may prove to be a footnote in Rodriguez's chase to become baseball's all-time home run king, costing him what would have been No. 525. In response, the Yankees installed a fence over the yellow stairs shortly after to ward off future recurrences.
All televised MLB games are monitored and staffed by an expert technician and either an umpire supervisor or a former umpire at Major League Baseball Advanced Media headquarters in New York. A television monitor and a secure telephone link to MLBAM, placed next to the monitor, have been installed at all 30 ballparks.
If the crew chief determines that instant replay review is necessary on a particular disputed home run, he calls the MLB Advanced Media technician, who then transmits the most appropriate video footage to the crew chief and the umpire crew on site. The umpire supervisor or former umpire does not have direct communication with any of the umpires on site, and the decision to reverse a call is at the sole discretion of the crew chief.
The standard used by the crew chief when reviewing a play is whether there is clear and convincing evidence that the umpire's decision on the field was incorrect and should be reversed. The use of replay is limited only to home runs: in or out, fair or foul and fan interference.
Girardi has been adamant that instant replay is a good idea for the game because it ensures that umpires make a correct call. He said that running the replays through MLBAM helped speed the ruling.
"They're watching in New York and they've got a good view," Girardi said. "They can run it a couple of times by the time the umpires get in there. I said all along, the important thing is that the call is right. The process worked great, and I think part of that is because in New York they're watching right away."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.