Instant replay goes off without a hitch
Solomon calls two-minute, 15-second process 'flawless'
Instant replay was used in Major League Baseball for the first time on Wednesday night on the seventh day and in the 81st game since it became available to determine a contested home run. In the words of Jimmie Lee Solomon, MLB's executive vice president of baseball operations, it could not have gone better."It was flawless," Solomon said. "Everything went the way it was supposed to go." The first instance involved a fair or foul determination in the ninth inning at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg when Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez hit an apparent home run high beyond the left-field foul pole. The two-run shot off Rays closer Troy Percival was ruled fair by third-base umpire Brian Runge. Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon met on the field with the umpires and persuaded crew chief Charlie Reliford -- who was positioned at second base -- to utilize replay for the first time, setting that process in motion.
"Being unsure of the process, I started with [home-plate umpire Greg Gibson], and I said, 'I can't really tell if it's fair or foul,'" Maddon said. "He said it was [Runge's] call, so I went down there and said, 'Brian, listen man, I'm not jumping on you right now. That ball is high and that pole is not high enough. And I would like you guys to talk about it.'"
After viewing the replay, Reliford upheld Runge's ruling -- it was a fair ball and therefore a home run, giving the Yankees an 8-3 lead in a game they would go on to win, 8-4. The process took two minutes, 15 seconds."Sometimes it takes longer for the manager to get kicked out of the game," said Rays catcher Dioner Navarro, who was behind the plate during home run and complimented the process by calling it "perfect."
Reliford entered the visitors' third-base dugout. Once there, he opened a metal cabinet and used a secure phone line to call MLB.com headquarters in New York to view the applicable replay clips on the flat-screen TV in front of him."When Reliford made the decision that he wanted to go to instant replay, he made his sign and he went to the replay location," Solomon said. "We had already racked up the replays for him [in New York]. He took a look at them and was able to confirm the call on the field."
It was then up to Reliford's discretion to overturn the original call. He didn't. Anyone in uniform arguing thereafter would have been automatically ejected from the game."Everything went exactly like they trained us it would go," Reliford said.
This is what general managers had envisioned late last year when they voted 25-5 to explore using instant replay on such a limited basis. Solomon, in his position as head of baseball operations, was charged with helping create a plan that would be approved by Commissioner Bud Selig, who implemented it with agreement from the unions for the umpires and players this past Thursday."We felt that we could get the play right or confirm it," Solomon said. "In this case, we are able to confirm that the play was called right. And we did it in a short period of time. We did not have a long delay in the game. In fact, we probably did it much faster than if both clubs were allowed to argue back and forth." The limited application of instant replay is utilized only to determine if a home run was fair or foul, in or out of the ballpark, or if there was fan interference, and the final ruling is made by the crew chief.
"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."
The home run was the 549th of A-Rod's career, passing Mike Schmidt for sole possession of 12th place on baseball's all-time list.
"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."
Said teammate Johnny Damon: "Our games go so long anyways, a couple of minutes isn't going to be a big deal."
Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.