Cubs split on addition of instant replay
Technology will be used only for disputed home run calls
CHICAGO -- Imagine Chicago's Derrek Lee hitting a home run that curves around the left-field foul pole and is fair, but the umpires call it foul.
All Cubs manager Lou Piniella will have to do is throw a red flag on the field to have it reviewed.
Well, not exactly. But Major League Baseball has signed an agreement with the World Umpires Association, approving the implementation of instant replay, which will begin before the end of the season. Umpires will only use it to deal with disputed home run calls.
Wrigley Field has been wired with monitors so umpires can view replays of questionable home runs to determine if they're fair or foul, or have cleared the wall or if there is fan interference.
"For what it's going to be used for -- fair or foul, home runs -- I think they should probably draw the line somewhere and stop it there," Cubs outfielder Reed Johnson said. "There are so many parks where there are poles behind the fence and you can't see, so it makes it tough for the umpires, and I think they'd rather get the call right, especially in a playoff atmosphere or World Series atmosphere."
Instant replay should make it easier on the umpires. The Cubs players had mixed opinions.
"I guess it all depends on whether it works in your favor or not," outfielder Jim Edmonds said. "I think it'll be a touchy situation just because there's no real clear call on how they'll make it work. If they use it like the NFL and get a TV down there or do something, where they can run over and make a quick decision, that should work. We can't be checking every single play."
Piniella probably won't have a red flag in his pocket to throw onto the field the way NFL coaches do.
"That'd be pretty funny -- he could reach into his sock like [Patriots coach] Bill Belichick," Cubs pitcher Jason Marquis said.
Marquis wasn't too thrilled about the whole idea of instant replay.
"I personally don't like it, just for the sole fact that when you start bringing computers into the game, one thing leads to the next," he said. "There's human error involved from all sides -- from the player's side to the umpire's side. Nobody's perfect.
"I know what they're trying to do is make the game more fair and make sure the calls are right," Marquis said. "These umpires are doing a great job and making sure the calls are right. They're always looking for new ways to improve the game, and if they feel this is a good route to go, I'm all for it. I personally wouldn't have brought it up."
He's been on both sides, and has had home runs called doubles, and vice versa. By adding instant replay, baseball is trying to get it right.
"Home runs, it's kind of a different gig," Johnson said. "Out and safe, and strikes will always be [the umpires'] game.
"We might go the whole playoffs without seeing a controversial home run," he said. "There's just so many games during the regular season, and so many teams, that there's bound to be home runs that aren't home runs and vice versa. I think the chances of them having to look at a call in the playoffs probably won't happen, and at least they'll get it right."
On July 23 against Arizona, Johnson hit his second career grand slam. However, a fan near the swimming pool in right at Chase Field appeared to lean over the fence and grab the ball. The umpires ruled it was a home run.
"Someone said they saw it [on replay] and said it looked like a home run, so I've heard two different things," Johnson said at the time of the possible fan interference. "I'll take it."
The outfielders admit they can have a tough time determining whether a ball is fair or foul.
"The foul ball/home run thing, even if you're standing there it's tough to see," Edmonds said. "Maybe they should shoot laser beams up there like the [ESPN] 'K-Zone' or something. I still think there are going to be some plays that are questionable and replay won't help. Get it right and move on."
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.