Major League Baseball enters instant replay age

  • Article by: PHIL MILLER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 30, 2014 - 12:41 AM

Major League Baseball enters a new age this season — finally, some might say — with the expanded use of instant replay.

Sean Harlin has lived a nice, serene existence for nearly a decade now, a comfy chair in a dark room with a ballgame on the TV in front of him. His job has been sort of quasi-librarian, cataloguing every pitch, every swing, every inning of every Twins game since 2006, so ballplayers can diagnose their own deficiencies or scout the other team’s tendencies. Watch the game, log it all, move on to the next one, all in relative anonymity.

All that changes for Harlin on Monday. Big-league pressure arrives on Opening Day.

“I already told Sean, he’s going to be the first person I bury if something goes wrong,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said, presumably in jest. Presumably. “I told him [he’s going] right under the bus.”

More like, right under the TV truck. After decades of defending umpires and their inevitable mistakes as part of the game’s “human element,” and 28 years after the NFL introduced video replay in 1986, America’s oldest professional sport finally has embraced 21st century technology and spent millions installing it in all 30 ballparks. Beginning this season, umpires’ calls will be subject to review by their peers, using high-definition digital replays to uphold or overturn controversial decisions.

And while the new replay-challenge system might put the focus on managers and umpires, one group appealing the other’s mistakes to a higher court in New York, the real pressure will be on guys like Sean Harlin.

“Get it right, get it fast, get it to the manager,” said Harlin, the team’s director of major league video. “They’ve put a lot of trust in me, so I’m excited about the challenge.”

Baseball tested the new rules during spring training games, albeit with inferior equipment and no central command center to review video replays — nothing like the systems MLB installed in each ballpark, at a reported $10 million price tag. The practice helped players, managers and fans become familiar with the basic procedures:

• Each manager may challenge one call per game, and if a call is overruled, he may challenge a second. But that’s the limit. From the seventh inning on, umpires may initiate a review of their own, if a team has used its allotment of challenges.

• Decisions will be handed down by an umpire monitoring the game from MLB’s new video command center in New York, a dark, windowless room full of high-tech monitors (MLB won’t reveal its cost) that looks like a NORAD bunker for directing U.S. air defense. On-field umpires will rotate through the season to replay judges, with every camera angle available to him for multiple slow-motion viewing, if necessary. The umpire will communicate his decision — video confirmed the call was correct, proved conclusively that it was wrong, or was inconclusive, so the call stands — to the crew chief via a headset near home plate, a process that baseball hopes takes only 60 to 90 seconds.

• Managers must let the umpire know in a timely manner that he is challenging a call, as quickly as 30 seconds after the play if it’s inning-ending.

And that last bit is where Harlin comes in. Managers might feel that an umpire’s call is wrong, but “we’re a long way from the play, and it’s not always a great view,” Gardenhire said. To help managers decide whether to challenge a call, each team is allowed to have one person watch the game on video and communicate with the dugout. Coaches and players are eligible, but the Twins, like most teams, chose the person most experienced at examining video.

The clock is ticking

That experience is going to be critical, because Harlin will have even less time to determine whether there is evidence of a missed call than the umpires making the ultimate decision. The replays might include super-slo-mo, but his decision will have to be 100-gigabyte fast.

“I’m sure the technology is cutting-edge, but it still comes down to my judgment, and seeing what you have to in a hurry,” Harlin said. “It’s one thing to look at it over and over and say, ‘OK, I’m sure he was out.’ But if it takes you two or three minutes, that’s not helpful.”

To buy time, Gardenhire expects he will emerge from the dugout and walk over to the umpire — “I’m used to running out there with a red face, so it’s going to be different,” he joked — and essentially stall, maybe ask the umpire what he saw, until Harlin relays word to coach Paul Molitor on the bench whether there is sufficient evidence to overturn the call, which Molitor will signal to the manager.

(Harlin might not be the only one with the ability to decide whether a challenge is warranted. In another policy change that’s certain to be popular, MLB has lifted its ban on showing replays of close or controversial plays on the stadium scoreboard.)

While Gardenhire chats with the umpire, Harlin will operate the controls of the Hawkeye system, a derivative of the super-accurate cameras that professional tennis uses to rule on close calls, which MLB is installing in every home and road clubhouse in the league. He will have access to every camera angle from both teams’ feeds, and can replay each one, whether or not the broadcast uses it.

Trouble is, baseball demonstrated the Hawkeye console, controlled via keyboard and mouse, for video coordinators during spring training, but Harlin won’t operate it himself until Monday.

  • related content

  • Twins show their power in spring finale

    Saturday March 29, 2014

    Minnesota hit three home runs in a victory in the final game in Florida.

  • Diamond reports to Rochester

    Saturday March 29, 2014

    Diamond reports to RochesterLefthander Scott Diamond reported to the minor league camp Sunday and pitched in an intrasquad game between...

  • Chart: How MLB instant replay will work

    Saturday March 29, 2014

    how will it work?1 The manager comes onto the field and announces he is challenging an umpire’s call (no, there...

  • Chris Marinak sits in front of a bank of television screens during a preview of Major League Baseball's Replay Operations Center, in New York, Wednesday, March 26, 2014. Less than a week before most teams open, MLB is working on the unveiling of its new instant replay system, which it hopes will vastly reduce incorrect calls by umpires. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

  • Sean Harlin’s job for the Twins just got a little more interesting. He will be the one advising the Twins dugout on when to challenge a call.

  • This is an inside look at MLB’s new video command center in New York, where at each workstation an array of monitors will show a dozen or so camera angles from each major league stadium. It is here that in-room umpires will rule on questionable calls. The hope is the entire process will take 60 to 90 seconds.

  • First base umpire Quinn Wolcott, center, removes his headset after an instant replay review in the second inning of a spring exhibition baseball game between the Quintana Roo Tigres, of Mexico, and the Texas Rangers, Thursday, March 27, 2014, in Arlington, Texas. Wolcott and the rest of the officials ruled a ball did clear the fence to give Rangers' Donnie Murphy a 3-run home run. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez) ORG XMIT: MIN2014032800194963

  • The instant replay debate heightened in recent years with several high-profile blown calls. One cost Armando Galarraga a perfect game.

  • twins spring wrapup

    Season opener: 3:10 p.m. Monday at Chicago • TV: FSN (96.3-FM)

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Tennessee 7:25 PM
Jacksonville
Philadelphia 12/20/14 3:30 PM
Washington
San Diego 12/20/14 7:25 PM
San Francisco
Minnesota 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Miami
Baltimore 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Houston
Detroit 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Chicago
Cleveland 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Carolina
Atlanta 12/21/14 12:00 PM
New Orleans
Green Bay 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Kansas City 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Pittsburgh
New England 12/21/14 12:00 PM
NY Jets
NY Giants 12/21/14 3:05 PM
St. Louis
Buffalo 12/21/14 3:25 PM
Oakland
Indianapolis 12/21/14 3:25 PM
Dallas
Seattle 12/21/14 7:30 PM
Arizona
Denver 12/22/14 7:30 PM
Cincinnati
New York 7:00 PM
Chicago
New Orleans 7:30 PM
Houston
Milwaukee 9:00 PM
Sacramento
Oklahoma City 9:30 PM
Golden State
Florida 6:00 PM
Philadelphia
Colorado 6:00 PM
Pittsburgh
Toronto 6:00 PM
Carolina
Washington 6:00 PM
Columbus
Anaheim 6:30 PM
Montreal
St. Louis 9:30 PM
Los Angeles
Edmonton 9:30 PM
San Jose
St Thomas (TX) 61 FINAL
Rice 72
Stony Brook 6:00 PM
Canisius
Temple 6:00 PM
Delaware
FIU 6:00 PM
Long Island
Lehigh 6:00 PM
Quinnipiac
South Alabama 6:00 PM
Richmond
Seton Hall 6:00 PM
South Florida
Ga Southern 6:00 PM
Stetson
Yale 6:00 PM
Vermont
Cleveland State 6:00 PM
Virginia
Wright State 6:00 PM
Western Carolina
Nicholls 6:30 PM
Louisiana Tech
Morgan State 6:30 PM
Rider
Idaho State 6:30 PM
South Dakota St
Oakland City 7:00 PM
Austin Peay
Eureka 7:00 PM
Bradley
Appalachian St 7:00 PM
Charlotte
Connecticut 7:00 PM
Duke
Southern Miss 7:00 PM
Jackson State
Coastal Carolina 7:00 PM
Ole Miss
Montana State 7:30 PM
South Dakota
LSU 8:00 PM
UAB
Ohio 8:05 PM
Evansville
CS-Dominguez 9:00 PM
Cal State Fullerton
Walla Walla 9:00 PM
Idaho
DePaul 9:00 PM
Oregon State
Nevada 9:00 PM
Pacific
Portland State 9:00 PM
San Francisco
CS-Bakersfield 9:05 PM
Utah State
Nevada 12/20/14 10:00 AM
Louisiana
Utah State 12/20/14 1:20 PM
Texas-El Paso
(23) Utah 12/20/14 2:30 PM
Colorado State
Western Mich 12/20/14 4:45 PM
Air Force
South Alabama 12/20/14 8:15 PM
Bowling Green
BYU 12/22/14 1:00 PM
Memphis
Marshall 12/23/14 5:00 PM
Northern Ill
Navy 12/23/14 8:30 PM
San Diego St
Central Mich 12/24/14 11:00 AM
Western Ky
Fresno State 12/24/14 7:00 PM
Rice
Niagara 76 FINAL
Cleveland State 58
High Point 59 FINAL
VA Commonwealth 81
Towson 64 FINAL
Wake Forest 74
Presbyterian 50 FINAL
Charlotte 66
Chicago State 62 FINAL
Bradley 59
Northwestern Coll 58 FINAL
Drake 102
Vanderbilt 67 FINAL
Marquette 80
Temple 4:00 PM
Howard
Southern Miss 4:00 PM
Ole Miss
UMBC 4:00 PM
Rider
Miami-Florida 5:00 PM
UCLA
St Mary-KS 5:00 PM
South Dakota
William & Mary 5:00 PM
Wofford
Troy 5:30 PM
Evansville
Loyola Marymount 6:00 PM
USC
St Francis-PA 6:00 PM
Duquesne
Indiana-Southeast 6:00 PM
IUPUI
Delaware State 6:00 PM
Detroit
Tenn Temple 6:00 PM
Gardner-Webb
West Virginia St 6:00 PM
Radford
Fairfield 6:00 PM
Seton Hall
Dartmouth 6:00 PM
New Hampshire
Ball State 6:00 PM
Pittsburgh
Jacksonville 6:00 PM
Tennessee St
Trine 6:00 PM
Western Mich
Tenn Tech 6:30 PM
Lipscomb
Samford 7:00 PM
Tulane
New Orleans 7:00 PM
Tulsa
Incarnate Word 7:00 PM
TX-Pan American
Ark-Little Rock 7:00 PM
South Dakota St
CS-Northridge 7:30 PM
Northern Ariz
Santa Clara 8:00 PM
Oregon
(19) Oklahoma St 8:00 PM
Weber State
Washington 8:00 PM
San Diego State
Cal Poly 8:00 PM
New Mexico
(10) Louisville 8:00 PM
Grand Canyon
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Do you like the Ervin Santana signing by the Twins?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close