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Rush to Judgment
Ben Reiter
September 01, 2008
MLB sprints into the age of instant replay
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September 01, 2008

Rush To Judgment

MLB sprints into the age of instant replay

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IT CAN take weeks to get the cable guy to your house, and yet sometime in the very near future—perhaps as early as this week—Major League Baseball will have each of its 30 stadiums wired for instant replay. On Aug. 20 the commissioner's office reached a replay agreement with the World Umpires Association. A similar deal with the players' union and a start date for the replay system was expected to be announced this week. "I told our members that it's just another tool that we can use to get the play right," said umpires union president John Hirschbeck.

Specifics on how replay will work were sketchy as of Monday—the commissioner's office asked teams to refrain from comment until the players' union signed off on the plan—but some details had emerged. Umpires will use replays only on disputed home run calls, and each ballpark will have a station near the field that will include a flat-screen TV, a remote control and a phone that will connect umps to a command center in New York City. Technicians and supervisors in New York will send the men in blue multiple camera angles of a play taken from the game's television feeds; the umpiring crew chief will decide what the correct call should be.

The decision on whether a play should be reviewed will rest with the umps—managers won't get to fling an NFL-style flag out of the dugout. Baseball also hopes to avoid the delays that replays sometimes cause in the NFL and NHL, especially since this season the commissioner gave teams and umpires a mandate to speed up games. (The average nine-inning game time this year is 2:50, down a minute from 2007.) But, after a rash of controversial home run calls, most baseball people think replay's time has come. "There are too many other things that Major League Baseball can do to shorten games," says the Braves' Chipper Jones. "Instant replay is not going to make that big a deal." Adds an AL G.M., "I can't see any negative in this. We've got the technology and the ability to get calls right, so we should."

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