4:04 PM CDT, May 18, 2013
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.
"He's a really, really good player,'' said third baseman Chris Johnson, who was traded alongside Upton. "He was (in Arizona) for a long time. Anytime you get traded, you want to come back to the place you got traded from and show them what they're missing a little bit, and I think that's what was on his mind."
Martin Prado, who went to the Diamondbacks in the deal, got off to a fast start but hasn't had a lasting impact. He entered the weekend hitting .235 with a .632 OPS.
After starting the season 12-1, the Braves went 10-17, allowing their National League East lead over the Nationals to largely evaporate. But they were home for only 14 of their first 40 games, the fewest in the majors, and were without catcher Brian McCann and right fielder Jason Heyward, who have returned.
"We're in first place and haven't really been healthy," said McCann, who was activated May 6 after offseason shoulder surgery. "It just goes to show you a lot of guys have stepped up and played huge roles. Once we get to full strength and once we get playing with each other for an extended period, our offense will click a little bit more, and we'll win a lot more."
Hold your breath: The Rays say they're relieved David Price was diagnosed with a strained triceps, but they have to be worried about the 5.24 ERA he had when he went on the disabled list. The reigning AL Cy Young Award winner hasn't been himself all season, and the Rays' postseason viability depends on him getting his season jump started when he returns.
"It's new territory for me," the 27-year-old Price said. "I've never really had any arm troubles. … This is frustrating, it is. It's even more frustrating because I'm throwing the ball as bad as I am. That's when you really want to get back out there and get things going in a positive direction."
Manager Joe Maddon doesn't expect Price to miss more than three starts but says the Rays will proceed cautiously.
"When he's well, he's going to be well for a long time," Maddon said. "We have plans of playing in October, and we're not getting there without him."
Hey, old buddy: Rosales, a Chicagoan who attended Maine South before going to Western Michigan, has had a hard time hiding since Hernandez's terrible call that turned a homer into a double May 8.
"I've heard from people I haven't seen since high school," Rosales told the San Francisco Chronicle. "People are interested to see how I feel about it."
Rosales agrees with those who believe that Hernandez twice missing the same call shows why MLB should go the way of the NHL and establish a central office with replay officials. As true third parties to the situation, they could provide impartial rulings passed along to the on-field umpires, who made the calls initially.
Call it the Rosales Rule.
"It's just a missed call,'' Rosales said. "I'm just the one who hit it. It happens, you know. It happened for (Armando) Galarraga in the (near) perfect game. You try to find a way to get it right. You don't have to label it or put a title on it."
Under a cloud: Yasmani Grandal is beginning a 10-day rehab assignment before possibly rejoining the Padres on May 28. He has lost a lot of credibility and standing in the clubhouse as a result of his 50-game PED suspension.
Nick Hundley, the primary catcher during Grandal's suspension, calls him "a guy who is unproven and had a good couple of months on steroids."
The 24-year-old Grandal tested positive for a banned substance and is among the players tied to the tainted Biogenesis clinic in Miami. He hit .297 with eight homers and an .863 OPS in 60 games last year but must prove himself all over again.
"Overwhelmingly, the majority of guys are tired of seeing this," Padres third baseman Chase Headley said, "It's a black eye. We want it out of the game."
Copyright © 2014 Chicago Tribune Company, LLC