Walcoff: Replay long overdue in MLB

When Bud Selig tunes in to watch next month’s Little League World Series, he will see a baseball first: Instant replay to review home runs (fair or foul) and other close calls at outfield fences.

The new system puts a game-operations replay official and an extra umpire in the broadcast booth who will need “clear and convincing evidence to overturn an umps ruling on the field.”

But while the kids get it right, the technophobic commissioner continues to keep MLB in the dark. Even though GMs voted 25-5 last November to institute a limited video review system, Selig refuses to embrace the inevitable.

It’s not that baseball should ever take the human element out of calling balls and strikes or whether a runner is safe on a bang-bang play on the bases, but with so many new ballparks featuring quirky home run lines and fans making a sport of reaching over fences to interfere with a live ball, why not help the men in blue get it right? By the way, why is the top of the wall along the left-field line at Dodger Stadium, “out of play” as the umpires ruled in that weird play Tuesday night that cost the Giants a run in their 2-0 loss to the Dodgers? It was another discretionary call crying out for video review.

As the Giants make their way down the coast for a weekend series in San Diego, their hitting has also gone south. San Francisco’s 61 home runs heading into Wednesday night’s game is the fewest in the majors. Their starting infield of Rich Aurilia, Omar Vizquel, Jose Castillo and John Bowker is the most power-challenged in baseball with a total of 23 homers this season. Unfortunately, my preseason prediction that the Giants lose 100 games and fail to hit 100 home runs may very well come true.

Not that things are any better across the Bay where the A’s .246 team batting average is the American League’s lowest. Yes, that really was Kurt Suzuki batting cleanup against the Royals Tuesday night for what had to be the first time in his professional career. I know Billy Beane is building for the future, but with all the trades and all the rookies (14 on the roster) now being thrown into the fray, it’s hard to deny the serious collateral damage to the A’s team morale.

Talk about hubris. Speaking to reporters in Spain, NBA Finals MVP Paul Pierce asked whether Kobe Bryant was the best player in the world said, “I don’t think Kobe is the best, I’m the best. There’s a line that separates having confidence and being conceited. I don’t cross that line, but I have a lot of confidence in myself.”

Has Pierce been hanging out with Shaquille O’Neal? It’s easy to knock Kobe for his disappointing performance against Boston but how do you think the series would have gone if the stars traded places and Pierce was saddled with that sorry supporting cast Bryant had with the L.A. Lakers and Kobe was playing for the Boston Celtics?

Rich Walcoff is the sports director at KGO Radio (810 AM) and can be heard weekdays between 5-9 a.m. on the “KGO Morning News.” He can also be reached at richwalcoff@abc-sf.com.

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