Baseball GMs want to look over instant replay

Published 8:15 pm Thursday, November 16, 2006

Baseball general managers think instant replay is worth another look.

GMs plan to talk about the topic some more, and perhaps make recommendations in the future, even they know commissioner Bud Selig is against the having replays aid umpires’ decisions.

“There is sufficient interest in it that it really warrants further discussion,” baseball senior vice president Joe Garagiola Jr. said Wednesday at the GMs’ annual meetings. “There’s no specific action item at the moment. We just want to keep talking about the different ways it could come into play and just keep kind of refining our thinking on the topic.”

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GMs have repeatedly discussed the topic but know replays aren’t likely to be used while Selig is in charge. Two years ago, GMs split 15-15 on a vote to further consider the use of instant replay. This time, they asked a committee that deals with umpires to develop recommendations for the full GMs group. Many GMs would favor replays on fair/foul calls and disputed home runs.

“The commissioner’s views on instant replay are well known but I also know he respects the body here,” Garagiola said. “So it’s an important topic to continue to discuss.”

Chicago Cubs manager Lou Piniella, whose been known to speak his mind to umpires, doesn’t think there’s a need for replays.

“Umpires do a really nice job,” he said. “I think that’s the way baseball has been played since inception. I don’t see any reason to change it.”

On the third day of the four-day session:

— Toronto neared agreement on a two-year contract with designated hitter Frank Thomas, a deal that could be completed within a few days.

— The New York Mets traded relievers Heath Bell and Royce Ring to the San Diego Padres for outfielder Ben Johnson and right-hander Jon Adkins.

— The New York Yankees declined Mike Mussina’s $17 million option but neared agreement on a two-year contract with the right-hander that would be worth about $23 million.

— Baltimore neared agreement with pitcher Jamie Walker on a three-year contract worth about $11 million.

— Tampa Bay won the rights to Japanese third baseman Akinori Iwamura when the Devil Rays’ bid of about $4.5 million was accepted by the Yakult Swallows.

— The Chicago Cubs agreed to a $5.25 million, two-year contract with backup catcher Henry Blanco.

— Philadelphia reached a preliminary agreement on a two-year contract with third baseman Wes Helms.

While big-names clients are being discussed with teams in this early stage of free agency — players such as Alfonso Soriano and Barry Zito — no deals appear close.

GMs did approve several changes. Starting next year, a team can change its postseason roster up until 10 a.m. on the day its first game is played, not when it is scheduled. That came in response to the postponement of the NL championship series opener between the Mets and Cardinals.

Starting next year, tie games will be a thing of the past — if a regulation game is tied when stopped by rain, it will be suspended and resumed at the point where it was interrupted. That change was approved last year but not ratified by the players’ association, which can delay rules modifications for one year but can’t block them.

GMs didn’t approve a proposal to have games suspended that were not yet regulation — in other words, if there is a rainout after two innings, the game still will be wiped out and replayed from the start.

In a rule change that must be approved by owners and the union, umpires proposed that weekends count for waivers during spring training.

Baseball also revealed a number of statistics on umpires. The Questec computer system, used in 11 ballparks, said 94.91 percent of ball-strike calls were correct, up from 94.20 percent in 2005. That represents a decline from 8.65 to 7.64 missed pitches per game.

Ejections dropped from 227 to 218 this year, and warnings fell from 79 to 68. There were 30 hit batters after warnings, of which 12 pitchers were ejected.

• Also, Six weeks after he was fired by Florida, Joe Girardi won the NL Manager of the Year award for keeping the rookie-laden Marlins in contention nearly all season. Jim Leyland took the AL honor after a quick turnaround with the Detroit Tigers.

A rookie skipper himself, Girardi beat out Willie Randolph of the New York Mets by a comfortable margin to become the first manager to win the award with a losing record.

Leyland turned around the long-moribund Tigers in his first year with the team, leading them to the World Series and their first winning season since 1993.

And, Mike Mussina’s $17 million option was declined by the New York Yankees, who are closing in on a new two-year deal with the right-hander.

Mussina, who turns 38 next month, gets a $1.5 million buyout. His new contract will be worth about $23 million over two seasons, and he must pass a physical before it is finalized. His agent, Arn Tellem, described talks this week as being “in the red zone.”

Also, Frank Thomas and the Toronto Blue Jays were close to agreement on a two-year contract.

Thomas signed a one year deal with the A’s last season.

And, the Padres and Mets swapped four role players, with San Diego sending relief pitcher Jon Adkins and reserve outfielder Ben Johnson to New York for relievers Heath Bell and Royce Ring.