Instant replay will be great for game

Reports that it's coming as soon as next season should cheer hearts of fans everywhere

Is anything cooler than tennis' electronic replay system?

A player who isn't sure about a line call raises a finger immediately after the call. The chair umpire announces the challenge, and the Hawk-Eye animation system appears on a nearby video screen showing the ball slowly approaching the line. It hits and caroms out of view, leaving behind an imprint that shows where the ball hit the court.

As quick as that, the original call is upheld or changed, and players get on with the match. There are almost never arguments after Hawk-Eye has had its say.

How good is the system? So good that John McEnroe would have had to get angry with himself when he was in his prime, not everyone else involved with his matches.

Hawk-Eye has speeded up tennis matches, and, if it is done right, an expanded replay system could be just as good for baseball.

After 15 years of debate, a comprehensive system finally is coming fast. No one will be happier to see it than former Reds and Nationals general manager Jim Bowden, now a commentator for SiriusXM.

He introduced the concept of electronic review to his fellow general managers at a meeting in the 1990s, and he always will remember how it fell on deaf ears.

Bowden says the vote was 27-1 against him. But with more than two decades of embarrassing mistakes by umpires and technology improving all the time, the GMs steadily have lined up on Bowden's side.

Now even Commissioner Bud Selig and owners are there. The word that came out of the owners quarterly meetings in New York last week suggests Major League Baseball probably will make all calls other than balls and strikes subject to instant replay in time for next season, the final year of Selig's contract, rather than on the next commissioner's watch.

Selig said Thursday his opinion "has evolved'' over the years.

MLB was set to add fair/foul calls and catches/traps by fielders for 2014, but Selig and owners apparently have been persuaded to make safe/out calls on the bases also subject to review. We have Angel Hernandez to thank, among others.

As for the timing of Selig's change, it couldn't have hurt the momentum of discussions in New York that the owners meeting closely followed Hernandez's botched call that denied the Athletics' Adam Rosales a tying home run in the ninth inning against the Indians. Fieldin Culbreth's misinterpretation of the rules when he allowed Astros manager Bo Porter to switch a reliever out of the game without first facing a hitter wouldn't have been subject to review, but it added to the spotlight on umpiring.

"Have we had a bad week or so? Yeah," said Joe Torre, MLB's executive vice president for on-field matters. "One was a rules thing; it had nothing to do with replay."

Torre, Tony La Russa and John Schuerholz have been named to a subcommittee that will prepare a replay proposal to be presented to owners at the next quarterly meeting in August in Cooperstown, N.Y. It will draw on information gathered when MLB experimented with the Hawk-Eye system and the PGA Tour's TrackMan radar software last year at Yankee Stadium and Citi Field.

Selig and Torre still worry about time that will be added to games reviewing calls, and it is not clear if MLB will grant teams the right to challenge calls or if it will have a replay official monitoring each game, who would initiate reviews on questionable calls.

The managers should have to trigger challenges from the dugout, but in tennis fashion, not the way the NFL does it. Managers shouldn't have time for an executive upstairs to watch the first replay before ordering a review. He should do it within the flow of the game. If his eyes tell him it was a bad call, boom, he calls a challenge.

Managers should have one or two per game, which roll over if they are used correctly. But technology is at a level where most challenges could be answered with instant feedback — like the Hawk-Eye system — and more complex ones, like a tag at home plate, would be watched by officials at a central location and changed only if the call clearly was missed.

There will be glitches, but the sooner the inevitable technology is unveiled, the sooner it can be fine-tuned.

In the meantime, watch Wimbledon this summer. You will see that replay can be everyone's friend.

Feeling good: It's safe to say Justin Upton enjoyed his return to Arizona, especially the four-hit game Monday, when he extended his big league lead with his 13th home run. The Braves continue to look like the big winners in the vague backlash that led to the Diamondbacks' decision to deal Upton to the Braves last winter.

CHICAGO