No more Maier: Replay comes to Bronx
Friday's contest vs. Jays to implement new review system
NEW YORK -- Somewhere, Tony Tarasco is smiling. The next time a young fan reaches over the wall to snag a souvenir, the umpiring crew will have instant replay at their disposal to get the call right.
More than a decade after 12-year-old Jeffrey Maier transformed into an overnight celebrity by plucking a Derek Jeter drive from the outfielder's waiting glove during the 1996 American League Championship Series, Yankee Stadium will be ready to go to the videotape.
Beginning with Friday's contest hosting the Blue Jays, the Yankees will have their home games equipped with Major League Baseball's replay system, offering umpires an additional look at any close home run calls -- fair or foul, in or out of the ballpark, or fan interference.
Should a call be flagged for review, the crew chief -- for Friday's game, third-base umpire Tim Tschida -- would depart the field and head for the umpire's locker room just beyond the home clubhouse.
He would then be able to review the play in question by using a television monitor and a secure telephone link to MLB Advanced Media's headquarters in New York. The crew chief would call a MLB technician using the secure line, who would transmit the most appropriate video footage back to the stadium.
Yankees manager Joe Girardi said that he is satisfied with its addition, but isn't holding his breath waiting for it to be used.
"I'm hoping we don't need it," Girardi said. "I don't have any doubts in my mind that it's the right decision. May there be some little kinks in it early on? Possibly. To me, I think it's the right decision and I'm actually all in favor of it. It may take a little bit longer in the beginning than we want, but I'm sure it will get ironed out. Eventually it will go really quickly."
Replay was available for three series -- Phillies-Cubs, Twins-A's and Rangers-Angels -- that began on Thursday, though the technology was not required. The debate over the use of instant replay in Major League games was renewed in force this year by three missed calls over the span of a four-day period, two of them taking place in the Bronx.
In a nationally televised Subway Series game at Yankee Stadium on May 18, the Mets' Carlos Delgado had a three-run homer taken away, though third-base umpire Mike Reilly originally -- and correctly -- signaled home run.
Home-plate umpire Bob Davidson overturned Reilly's ruling, returning Delgado to bat as television replays showed the baseball had left a scuff at the base of the left-field foul pole. Then-bench coach Jerry Manuel was ejected for arguing and Delgado instead returned to bat, though the call did not affect the outcome of the game, an 11-2 Mets' victory.
The next evening at Minute Maid Park in Houston, umpires ruled that a ball hit by the Cubs' Geovany Soto was in play, believing that the ball hit off the center-field wall. Soto rounded the bases with an inside-the-park home run on the play, though he should have been immediately credited with a home run anyway.
The third and final call in the troublesome stretch came on May 21, when umpires took a home run away from Alex Rodriguez. The Yankees third baseman hit a ball off a set of yellow stairs past the fence in right-center field at Yankee Stadium, as 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, but 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.
Despite that rare span, right-hander Mike Mussina said this week that he believes umpires will rely on the new technology very sparingly, and that it will not prompt long delays for the pace of the game.
"You see one replay and it's immediate," Mussina said. "It's not like it's something they've got to go back and forth like the NFL -- 'Did he get his toes in? Did he have control of the ball?' All that stuff. That's not what's happening. I don't think it will be used that often and I don't think it will be that big of a distraction."
The replay could even help phase out arguments over close calls. Girardi said that the umpire's ruling would give a sense of finality to whatever determinations are eventually necessary.
"I really believe that because of the replay, it's going to be right," Girardi said. "There probably wouldn't be any sense in arguing it anyway. I just still wish I had a red flag."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.