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Special panel to tackle MLB's on-field issues

By Larry Fine

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig has appointed a committee to discuss and offer advice on issues including the pace of play, scheduling, umpiring and instant replays.

Selig told a conference call on Tuesday that no on-field topics would be off-limits for the committee composed of 14 men including four managers, four current or former general managers, four representatives of club owners, Hall of Famer Frank Robinson and journalist George Will.

The commissioner said he hoped the first meeting of the special panel would be next month in Phoenix around the time of the owners' meetings.

Managers involved are Tony La Russa (Cardinals), Jim Leyland (Tigers), Mike Scioscia (Angels) and Joe Torre (Dodgers).

General managers are Andy MacPhail (Baltimore), Terry Ryan (formerly of Twins), Mark Shapiro (Indians), and John Schuerholz (Braves)

Representing club owners are Chuck Armstrong (Seattle), Paul Beeston (Toronto), Bill DeWitt (St Louis) and Dave Montgomery (Philadelphia).

SACRED COWS

"I will be guided by what this committee comes up with," said Selig, who noted the members combined more than 450 years of baseball experience. "I have that much faith and that much respect for this group.

"We will examine and review all aspects of the game on the field, including scheduling, post-season formats, umpiring, time and pace of game, instant replay and all other issues deemed appropriate by the committee, and make recommendations.

"As I told them, there are no sacred cows. Whatever they want to talk about we will."

La Russa told the conference call he had spoken with the other managers and they were excited about the opportunity.

"We're an opinionated group with a ton of experience and we welcome this opportunity to speak frankly to you about some of these issues," La Russa told Selig. "We like, especially, the no sacred cows part of it."

This past post-season brought some criticism of the umpiring and calling of the strike zone, frustration with the limited use of replays and complaints about stretching out playoff series with days off to accommodate the TV schedule.

(Editing by John Mehaffey)