Mehno: MLB replay needs further review

PITTSBURGH – Major League Baseball has a limited replay system in place, which is further limited by the umpires’ inability to make the right call even after watching in slow motion.

It happened last week, and it happened earlier when the Pittsburgh Pirates’ Travis Snider was denied a home run.

The umpires left the field, consulted a replay and still came back with the wrong call. That’s not how things are supposed to work.

The idea behind stopping games for replay reviews is to get calls correct. That’s especially the case with what baseball identifies as “boundary” calls, determining whether a ball is a home run or in play.

It’s a tough call for the umpires, who have to turn around, make the call while they’re running, and deal with a lack of depth perception. Some parks have quirks that make it especially tough to determine if a ball is out. Fan interference is another factor.

These kinds of calls benefit from replay, but the current system may not be good enough. The umpires leave the field and go into a room to look at a TV set. Ken Rosenthal reported last week that the sets installed at most parks have a 19-inch screen.

It’s time for MLB to adopt a “war room” system like the NHL’s, where experienced people can watch replays on state-of-the-art equipment away from the venue.

The NHL replay department is headquartered in Toronto. Experienced pros watch the replays on wall-sized screens in high definition. They communicate with the officials at the site.

No system is perfect, but the NHL’s is far superior to MLB’s. There’s a greater commitment to getting the calls right.

Even the NFL has a better system, with a replay official assigned to each game and seated in a booth. That wouldn’t be practical in baseball because of the number of games, so an NHL-styled system would work better.

Since there’s discussion about expanding the use of replay next season, it’s time for MLB to make the investment in a better system.

There are too many inexperienced and incompetent umpires working to trust them to get it right, even with a second look.

SUBHEAD: Jack Butler

The Pittsburgh Steelers had a lot of history before the 1970s, but it’s hazy for a lot of people.

One of the key figures from the pre-Super Bowl era was Jack Butler, a tough-as-nails defensive back who finally got into the Pro Football Hall of Fame last summer.

Butler died yesterday at 85 from a staph infection that resulted from the gruesome knee injury that ended his career in 1959. Later, Butler would head the Pittsburgh-based BLESTO scouting combine and stay active in football.

Although the knee injury left him with physical pain for the rest of his life, he told friends that playing football was the greatest thing that ever happened to him, and he wouldn’t trade the experience for anything.

Butler happened to play for the Steelers when they weren’t very successful. He could have played on any Steelers team in any era.

Mehno can be reached at