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USA TODAY
Joe Lemire, @LemireJoe, Special for USA TODAY Sports

Baseball's newly constructed Replay Operations Center, a 900-square-foot enclave within Major League Baseball Advanced Media's offices in Chelsea, is a space barely larger than the average one-bedroom rental in Manhattan, yet it contains 37 high-definition televisions, each of which can be subdivided into a dozen or more smaller displays.

Wednesday, MLB offered a glimpse into a room that will change the way baseball is officiated, and it's not hard to imagine a whirl of activity on game nights.

The room will staff up to eight umpires at a time, each of whom will typically track two games simultaneously with the assistance of a video technician. The technician will have real-time access to at least seven cameras of every game (and usually as many as 12) to cue up varying angles of every play to help inform the replay umpires, who have final say on whether to reverse a call.

This hub of the newly expanded replay system is a modern marvel that will reduce the scrutiny surrounding blown calls on the field. One such call in the eighth inning of 2012's American League Championship Series Game 2 helped the Detroit Tigers score two runs vs. the New York Yankees and sparked such outrage that it was a tipping point in Hall of Fame manager Joe Torre's thinking on the need for replay.

"The thing I didn't want to happen was something like that take center stage over the game," said Torre, MLB's executive vice president for baseball operations. "That's when I realized we can't ignore the technology."

Before this season, there was no recourse for correction, except on disputed home run or boundary calls, which had been reviewable since August2008. MLB pledges transparency with the new system -- including allowing teams to show controversial calls on stadium screens -- as part of its conviction to get calls right.

From the Replay Operations Center, there are connections to all 30 ballparks, where nearly 43 tons of equipment has been installed to outfit high-home cameras for overhead views of the diamond, as well as video stations in the home and visiting clubhouses for each club's video review coordinator. It required 32,178-and-counting hours of work at a cost the league won't divulge.

The league hired two new crews of four umpires to augment its scheduled rotations, which now include stops in the replay center. All 74 rookie and veteran umpires are undergoing a three-day training course to prepare for this new part of the job description that requires a new skill set; rather than swiftly and authoritatively making calls based on what they see in real time with their own two eyes, in the replay room they often will piece together multiple slow-motion angles to make the call. The league estimates most replay reviews should take 60-90 seconds, though some inevitably will take longer.

The centralization should help, as umpires in the replay room will be encouraged to collaborate on calls and will work under the oversight of the inaugural director of replay, Justin Klemm, a former minor league umpire.

It's an incredible undertaking for a system that won't be used as much as fans probably expect. A league study of the 2013 season found there were 377 missed calls on reviewable plays that met the "clear and convincing" evidence threshold for reversing a call -- one blown call for every 6.4games, meaning there might be 2.5 mistakes on a night with a full slate of 15 games. Only three times last season was there a game with three missed calls, and never did all three blown calls go against the same team.

MLB expects the majority of reversed calls to come on tag and force plays, which accounted for 86% of correctible calls, according to the league's study.

"I'm happy for the managers," Torre said, "that it'll keep them from having one or two more sleepless nights."

 

March 27, 2014

 

 
 

 

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