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For their own good
Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
Upon review, baseball may not be so keen on replay
Even victims of bad calls say replay would introduce as many problems as it solved.
By DAMIAN CRISTODERO
Published August 19, 2005
Lou Piniella was going haywire.
The Devil Rays manager screamed, gesticulated and stomped around Fenway Park. He threw his cap across the diamond and had to be restrained by first-base coach Billy Hatcher.
Piniella exploded in the ninth inning of the July 18 game when first-base umpire Dana DeMuth reversed a call that cost Julio Lugo an infield hit and the Rays a run.
Not only had DeMuth initially called Lugo safe after deciding Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling missed first base, he acquiesced to home-plate umpire Laz Diaz, who watched the play from about 90 feet away.
In the end, the call had no effect on Tampa Bay's 3-1 victory, but it could have. Imagine the rage that would have come from the Rays clubhouse then.
Now, imagine a system in which the umps could use instant replay to resolve such disputes. Lugo has.
"That's the best way to get it right," the Rays shortstop said. "It would take you 30 seconds, not even. Was it out or was it safe? Thirty seconds at most. Go to the camera and review it right away."
Sounds like a plan, doesn't it?
You have space-age technology that can slow the action to a crawl. Magnified images that can reveal in detail the sweat falling off a player's nose. And replays are used in varying degrees, and mostly with success, in the NFL, NBA, NHL and NCAA football and basketball.
But Major League Baseball's general managers have only informally discussed instituting replay reviews. And commissioner Bud Selig in June told the Sporting News he is opposed because "human error always has been part of the equation."
Players, for the most part, seem to agree.
Interviews with about a dozen, plus two former umpires, produced little outcry for replays, especially during the regular season and certainly not for balls and strikes or bang-bang plays.
There was more support, though not overwhelming, for reviews in the playoffs to ensure the legitimacy of home runs.
But there were more worries that reviews would add to already too-long games, and that umpires will wait for replays instead of making tough calls.
Mostly, though, there was deference to tradition and the perception that, as MLB spokesman Pat Courtney said, "We think our (umpires) do a tremendous job. You're going to have an occasional play that's missed regardless of the circumstances."
Even former pitcher Todd Worrell, whose Cardinals were victimized by one of the worst calls in history - Don Denkinger's safe call at first during the 1985 World Series with the Royals - said less is more.
"Once you get into the playoffs and there is no tomorrow, if a play merits it, you do something," he said. "If it's just a blur play or a bang-bang play, then you let it stand. I'm talking about a play like the one I was involved in where everyone in the stadium knows what the call was except one guy."
That still is too much for some.
"With this game, the beauty of it sometimes is the controversy, the human factor that we all make mistakes," Rays first baseman Eduardo Perez said. "Umpires are going to get it wrong sometimes. It's just part of it. You go with it."
Besides, Piniella said, "A good argument is fun to watch."
The first time
Baseball does not prohibit umpires from using instant replay, but it doesn't say they can. That is what made umpire Frank Pulli's use of a replay in a May 1999 game between the Marlins and Cardinals so extraordinary.
Pulli called Cliff Floyd's fifth-inning hit a home run. But after St. Louis manager Tony La Russa argued, Pulli looked at a television monitor next to the dugout and ruled the ball caromed off the leftfield wall at Dolphins Stadium and not off the retracted football seats above.
Floyd was given a double and Pulli earned a place in history as the first and only umpire to use a replay to decide a call.
"Hell no, I don't have any regrets," said Pulli, now an MLB umpire supervisor who lives in Palm Harbor. "I did what I thought was right."
But what is right for a game so steeped in tradition that we recoil at the idea of juiced balls, those hideous softball jerseys worn in the '70s and aluminum bats?
For many, it is the human element.
"It's the way the world works," Orioles second baseman Brian Roberts said. "I think we try to make up for too many mistakes as it is in human society. I don't know why you have to bring it into the field. It's a great part of the game."
"It's what makes our game special," Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek said. "Umpires are like us. They're human. It's part of what makes breaks and makes things change."
Umpire supervisor Jim McKean wondered if there would be enough television cameras in small market stadiums, especially during nonplayoff games, to cover all the angles. Even if there were, he said, "We don't want to get into a situation where they are umpiring with the camera. Then you're not officiating."
"That's what it's all about," Pulli said. "Does the instant replay become a crutch? After a while an umpire might not make the call on a tough play. He says, "I have instant replay. I'll get it right.' That's what happens in the NFL."
McKean also had time issues.
"We've got a pitcher on the mound waiting to pitch a ball, and when it's September or October and it's cold we don't want anybody standing out there waiting for a replay," he said. "There are just so many ramifications to it. If it was cut and dried it would be a great tool, but it's not cut and dried."
But don't players wait around during arguments?
"That's something that everyone is going through on all levels from the time you're a kid," MLB's Courtney said of the brouhahas. "I was just talking to someone about a play that happened when I was 12 and we're still debating it. That's part of baseball."
We can fix it
Is this part of baseball?
Cardinals pitcher Worrell, by a proverbial mile, beat Kansas City's Jorge Orta to first base in the ninth inning of Game 6 of the '85 World Series. Denkinger's inexplicable safe call helped spark a two-run rally. The Royals won and took Game 7.
Yankees fan Jeffrey Maier reached over the rightfield wall at Yankee Stadium in Game 1 of the '96 ALCS against the Orioles and caught Derek Jeter's fly ball. Umpire Rich Garcia wrongly ruled it a tying home run, and New York went on to win.
It is for such playoff situations that replay reviews have gained some favor.
"With a stolen base or bang-bang play at first base, no chance," Red Sox centerfielder Johnny Damon said. "That is the umpire's judgment and you shouldn't have a replay. But it's either a home run or it's not, and that's huge."
Major League Baseball has tried to address the issue by strongly suggesting its umpires consult on close plays. Though it has improved performance, it doesn't always work, either.
Crew chief Ed Montague in May overruled a home run call by third-base umpire Jerry Layne. It cost the Braves a run in a 3-2 loss to the Nationals, and the Washington Post reported replays of Brian Jordan's blast showed the ball hit the foul pole.
Days later, Philadelphia's Mike Lieberthal was awarded a home run after umpire Dale Scott initially ruled the hit bounced off the top of the leftfield fence and back into play. Phillies manager Charlie Manuel argued, and the umps huddled and changed the call. Lieberthal admitted after the game, "I saw it on the videoboard. It wasn't a home run."
Braves manager Bobby Cox told reporters after his game he'd favor using replays to confirm home runs.
And Worrell said anti-replay forces should remember such gaffes.
"Most of those people have never been in a situation like I was where it's cost them a World Series," he said.
Pulli said he understands the sentiment.
"The only time I would think about it is in a playoff game if a home run could determine the outcome," he said. "Let's say it's the winning run and it's the wrong call. The umpire has to live with that for the rest of his life."
Like Denkinger lives with his call, and Pulli with his use of replay. That too, he said, came after an inconclusive conference with his fellow umpires.
"When I got the three other umps together, I said, "Tell me what you saw. I didn't see anything,' " Pulli said. "I said to myself, "What do I do?' The man upstairs said, "Frank, go look at it.' "