Phillies join MLB in giving limited approval to instant replay

Two years ago, at Washington, in the final week of the regular season, Chase Utley hit a line drive that nicked the rightfield foul pole at RFK Stadium. But first-base umpire Rob Drake ruled it a foul ball instead of a three-run homer. The Phillies went on to lose the game and, ultimately, just missed making the playoffs as a wild card.

One call in the second inning of a game, even a crucial late-September game, shouldn't make or break an entire season. But, just to be sure, Major League Baseball formally announced yesterday that instant replay - limited to determining boundary calls involving home runs - will go into effect beginning tomorrow.

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In a game in July, Arizona's Stephen Drew watches as umpires discuss whether ball hit by Cubs' Reed Johnson was a home run.

One of the series affected will be the Phillies playing the Cubs at Wrigley Field, beginning tomorrow.

Phillies general manager Pat Gillick voted in favor of the recommendation last November at the general managers meetings. And the overall reaction around the team yesterday was acceptance of what had been a fait accompli for months.

"Personally, I was in favor of it," assistant general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said. "I think our organization was in favor of it. I think it's important to get those calls right."

Added manager Charlie Manuel: "We'll go along with it. I'm in favor of getting things right. If it takes replay, then I guess I'm for replay."

Manuel was asked about Utley's non-homer in 2006.

"What people don't understand is how it affects you sometimes," he said. "That definitely played a role in that game. And then [2 nights later when the Phillies lost again after a long rain delay], that kind of buried us.

"At the same time, we've had some go our way."

Earlier that same season, first baseman Ryan Howard lost a home run in Houston when umpire Larry Poncino ruled that his drive to leftfield hit the top of the wall. Replays showed that the ball caromed off a fan sitting in the Crawford Boxes and came back into play.

"Will there be a red flag?" Howard asked facetiously. (The answer is no.)

Then, more seriously: "It's all about getting the call right. I think that's what everybody wants."

Commissioner Bud Selig, who had long opposed replay, applauded the innovation.

"I believe that the extraordinary technology that we now have merits the use of instant replay on a very limited basis," he said on a conference call. "The system we have in place will ensure that the proper call is made on home run balls and will not cause a significant delay to the game."

The Major League Baseball Players Association approved the change on an experimental basis and reserved the right to request further bargaining after the season. Otherwise, the system will be used at least through the 2011 season.

The question, of course, is how long replay will be used before pressure builds to expand its role to, say, close plays on the bases.

"My opposition to unlimited replay is still very much in play," Selig said. "I really think the game has prospered for well over a century now doing things the way we did it."

Amaro agreed.

"I would limit this to, in my personal view, home runs, fair or foul," he said. "I would not go beyond that. I think it's important to continue to have that human element of people making decisions on the field. I think umpires should continue to be an important part of the game."

Here's how it will work: Video from all broadcasts will be collected at the offices of MLB Advanced Media in New York. If the crew chief decides a play is in dispute, the umpires will leave the field to view the replay fed to the stadium by technicians in New York. The crew chief will make the final call, overturning the original decision only if presented with "clear and convincing" evidence.

Coming out of the dugout to argue a replay call, once it has been reviewed, will result in automatic ejection. *