Upon further review, instant replay could be coming to baseball after all.
After years of discussing the issue, major league general managers Tuesday overwhelmingly approved a proposal to use video replays on a limited basis, such as helping umpires determine if potential home run balls landed fair or foul, if they cleared the wall and if they were interfered with by fans.
But the 25-5 vote at the annual general managers' meeting in Orlando, Fla., doesn't guarantee a replay procedure will be in place by next season since a number of hurdles, including Commissioner Bud Selig's long-standing opposition to video replays, must be overcome first.
The proposal must also be discussed by club owners as well as the unions representing the players and umpires. And that's not likely to happen by the mid-February start of spring training, when the video replay procedure would have to be tested for use for the 2008 season.
However the general managers already have allies among the umpires.
"The majority of them that I spoke to, they welcome it," said Cris Jones, an umpire supervisor. "They don't want to walk off that field knowing that they cost someone their opportunity to [win]. We want to make sure we get it right. And we're not too thin-skinned to say 'Hey, help us get it right.' "
Under the proposal approved Tuesday, replays would be handled much as they are in the NHL, where officials in the league's Toronto office review video of all goals to make sure the puck crossed the goal line cleanly. Baseball's replay officials, working from a central location, would be charged with reviewing home runs.
That might have helped this postseason when umpires had trouble reading balls that hit the top of the wall in Cleveland and Denver.
"I think it's a good thing. In a limited role," said Brian Gorman, a 16-year veteran umpire. "With some of these new ballparks with the new dimensions . . . they bring fans closer to the outfield fences and they have a lot of fan interference. It's hard to determine whether a ball hit off a fan or the front row or hit the top of the wall."
Baseball is among the few major sports not using video replay to assist officials. In addition to the NHL, the NFL has used instant replay to verify or overturn calls since 1999 and college football tried it on an experimental basis in 2004 before adopting it for wider use last year, the same season it debuted in the Canadian Football League.
It's also used in the NBA to review buzzer-beating shots, on line calls in tennis and in rugby, cricket, rodeo and auto racing. Four years ago, instant replay was even used to determine the outcome of a high school quiz bowl at Michigan State.
That has left Selig's aversion to technology appearing dated, and may be why he appeared to soften his opposition last month, promising to consider proposals before the mandate to impose instant replay grew stronger.
"They're trying to stay ahead of the curve on this thinking one day it may come," Jones said.
Derryl Cousins, who has spent 29 years umpiring games in the majors, has also tentatively lined up behind replays, but with mixed emotions.
"I guess there's nothing wrong with it," he said. "I'm not against it as far as what they're talking about. [But] when Abner [Doubleday] wrote the book he put us in there for a reason: it's the human element. I just think it's a part of the game that you might be losing."