Astros make change after botched call

HOUSTON Geovany Soto got an inside-the-park three-run homer in the fourth inning despite replays showing that it should have been an automatic home run. The ball bounced just to the right of the yellow line on the wall in left-center field.

"There was a yellow board that was facing us and it was kind of flopping in the breeze," baseball executive Bob Watson said. "So we took the board out and we had them paint a yellow line on the inside wall facing the third base stands."

Watson, umpire supervisor Rich Rieker and several Astros officials met in the outfield near the board to discuss the situation for almost 30 minutes Monday afternoon. Soon the maintenance crew was in the outfield removing the board and adding the new paint.

"It's just so there's no confusion," Watson said. "There's no need that type of confusion at a big league ballpark."

The area in question is a patch above the left field wall and below an area where fans stand. If the ball hits on the green wall in that area it's a home run, if it hits the yellow or back in the corner it is in play.

Third base umpire Ed Rapuano, who made the call on Monday, said it wasn't a homer because it hit the yellow line.

Asked if the new line was more forgiving, Watson explained.

"Not forgiving, but umpire-friendly," he said. "He can make the call on the move. The guy that's going to make that call is the guy at third base and he's the one that's on the move out there."

Astros manager Cecil Cooper said the move should help make it easier to determine what's a homer and what's not.

"Instead of that line standing out, it's going to be on the inside so you can really determine if the ball hit inside or outside," he said.

Though the change could help make some calls easier to make in that area, Cooper would love to see baseball take a bigger step to help the umpires: adding instant replay.

"When they're game-changing decisions then to me I think we should have like they do in basketball," he said. "Say that ball (Soto's homer) was hit in the eighth inning and we're tied or even or even we're down by one. That's a big deal in the game. In those situations I think there definitely should be something."

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