Jays have mixed feelings about replay
New MLB initiative to begin for Toronto on Friday night
ST. PETERSBURG -- The limited instant replay initiative passed this week by Major League Baseball has created a variety of reactions among the Blue Jays. Not all of Toronto's players are in favor of the decision to allow a review of disputed home run calls.
There is concern that the move could set a dangerous precedent -- potentially opening the door for more changes down the road that continue to rid of the game's human element. The Blue Jays do agree that the decision could be fine, as long as baseball limits the reviewable plays to home runs.
"Everybody wants to play the game fair," Blue Jays catcher Rod Barajas said. "If it's a home run, you'd like for it to be a home run. If it's not, you'd like for it to be overturned. As long as it sticks to those calls, I think most people are going to be fine with it."
On Tuesday, Commissioner Bud Selig announced that instant replay can be used to examine questionable home runs via MLB Advanced Media's headquarters in New York. For the Blue Jays, the new guideline goes into effect on Friday, when Toronto opens a three-game series against the Yankees.
Instant replay can be used to determine if a home run was fair or foul, if it cleared an outfield fence or if a fan interfered on the play. The umpire crew chief at every game can decide to review a home run, turning to a former Major League umpire or an umpire supervisor who will work with a technician to pore over video footage at the New York office.
For now, it's a change that plenty of players are hesitant to support. Blue Jays ace Roy Halladay said he believes the decision is a sign that baseball has started to steer away from its long-standing tradition of including judgment as a part of the game. That's something Halladay doesn't want.
"You kind of hate to see it, just because you're starting to change the game," Halladay said. "Really, I think it's probably going to be more fair and it's probably going to be the right way to do it, but it's starting to change the game -- change the way it's always been called.
"As far as the umpires, basically, it's judgment. There's no right or wrong. You'd hate to see it move towards football, because it's such a painful process sometimes watching those games. Hopefully, it's something that's quick."
The amount of time it could potentially take to review any given play was a main issue with many of Toronto's players.
"What about the pitcher that stands on the mound?" Toronto's Matt Stairs asked. "That's going to take five minutes. The guy goes on the mound and stands there for five minutes, it could change the tempo of a game.
"If someone is throwing extremely well and it's a foul ball, and everybody knows it's a foul ball, but they want to check it out, then all of a sudden they have to call New York? The pitchers are going to suffer."
Halladay said that's one aspect that he hopes doesn't become an issue.
"Let's see how it works," Halladay said. "Maybe it's something that goes quickly and it's not even an issue. But, yeah, that'd be a concern, especially with them trying to speed games up, I think that would put a hamper on that."
None of this is to say that there weren't Blue Jays who felt the decision was appropriate.
Toronto veteran catcher Gregg Zaun said he was in favor of the move, as long as instant replay continued to be limited to disputed home runs -- a view shared by shortstop John McDonald. Toronto pitcher A.J. Burnett added that he wanted to wait to see how it played out before forming an opinion.
Blue Jays center fielder Vernon Wells, who is the club's union representative, said that he felt it was a good move for the game.
"If the umpires can agree to do it, it's something that everybody wants to get right," Wells said. "It can change a game and, to the umpires' credit, the parks now make it hard for them to make decisions on borderline balls. They agree that, 'Let's get the call right and move on.'"
On the other hand, Stairs -- a veteran of 16 big-league seasons -- didn't like the decision at all.
"I think changing the game and putting instant replay in, in my mind, is wrong," Stairs said. "Next thing you know, it's going to be computerized strike zones with no umpires. That's the next step.I just don't agree with bringing the instant replay in. It makes the umpires look bad if they're wrong.
"What, are you going to have a red ball to throw on the field to challenge the play?"
Halladay is hoping this move won't pave the way for more ways to use instant replay.
"Honestly, I think they are smart enough to avoid that," he said. "Then you're really messing with the game. Umpires are a part of the game, whether we like it or not sometimes. I think it needs to stay that way. I think everybody else in baseball feels the same and hopefully that's something that won't change."
Blue Jays bench coach Brian Butterfield agreed with that sentiment.
"I don't want the human element taken out of this game," Butterfield said. "I don't want there to be computers or machines doing the job of our umpires."
The only other issue shared by some of Toronto's players was the timing of the ruling, considering the move came with roughly a month remaining on the regular-season schedule. Barajas believes baseball could've implemented the new rules at the onset of the 2009 season.
"I don't understand why they couldn't wait until next year," Barajas said. "But, I guess they're using this as maybe a trial phase to see if they want to continue it next year -- I don't know. It seemed like it'd make sense just to start with a fresh season, but they made the decision."
Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston said he supported the addition of instant replay.
"Let's get it right," Gaston said. "I think it's a good thing -- I really do. Everybody else has it, so why not? I think all sports are moving forward to make things better, as far as football and basketball. All sports are doing things to try to just make it a better game."
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.