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PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. — The dirt-kicking, cap-flipping, vein-popping argument that has been part of baseball's fabric for a century and a half is about to give way to a more modern way of deciding who's right.

MLB: 'Very positive' response on replay rollout

Notoriously slow to embrace change, Major League Baseball is unveiling a replay system it says will be the most expansive of any sport's and perhaps put an end to missed calls by umpires.

The system will cover almost every play except balls and strikes, checked swings, a trapped ball in the infield and the so-called neighborhood play — when a defensive player turning a double play comes close to second base but perhaps does not actually touch it.

But if it's about whether the go-ahead run was safe at home plate? Check the replay.

It starts for real March 30 in San Diego, where the Padres will play the Los Angeles Dodgers, but test runs are being conducted throughout spring training, which began this week.

"When we started this thing, we said, 'What can be so tough about watching TV?'" says ex- player and manager Joe Torre, who is the MLB executive vice president in charge of developing and implementing the system. "It becomes quite complicated."

Just ask the 30 managers who are facing not only new rules but also new strategy.

Managers are allotted one challenge a game, where they can force the umpire to have a play reviewed at a command center in New York that is manned by an umpiring crew. If the manager is correct, he gets a second challenge. After the sixth inning, umpires can initiate a review, but only if the potentially aggrieved team has used its challenge.

Before a challenge, though, managers will have to assess whether the call is likely to be overturned — and, in most cases, they'll have to do so quickly.

Every clubhouse in every major league ballpark will have a mini-command center in which teams can see the same video feeds. But unless the play in question ends an inning or there is a pitching change, teams will be pressed to make a call — and there's no tolerance for stalling.

That doesn't mean managers won't try. Several have already added a term to baseball lingo: Turning the manager.

MLBPA: Tony Clark talks replays, collisions, PEDs

Pay close attention to where managers stand when they go on the field to talk with umpires and whether they have a view of their coaches in the dugout. As Philadelphia Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg explains, they'll "kind of work around, get a look at the bench, then make a judgment (based on what the coaches say) whether to challenge or not."

Teams will be hiring replay specialists — some clubs are considering ex-umpires — or reassigning staff to monitor the clubhouse video and call the dugout with advice.

One American League manager, who requested anonymity for competitive reasons, told USA TODAY Sports he wants an ex-ump even though the team video coordinator, who already handles the equipment players use to analyze their play or to study opponents, might be more tech-savvy.

"My video guy is too much of a fan," says the manager, who already has begun the interview process. "He'd think we're getting screwed on every play. I want someone who can interpret the rules and make a calm decision."

Torre estimates the average challenge and subsequent replay can be done in 60-90 seconds because umpires will connect with the New York command center through a headset behind home plate and be told the decision.

Although everybody acknowledges there will be hiccups, baseball's step into the 21st century is mostly being lauded. That is except for some baseball purists — and they are of all ages.

"Some of the greatest stories we know and the most heroic tales are when something bad happens," says Matt Moore, 24, a Tampa Bay Rays pitcher. "Not everything is going to go your way. Stuff happens. I think being able to overcome that adversity is part of the story. … Seeing the manager turn his hat around and get nose-to-nose with the umpire is part of it, too. That's part of our sport."

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Managers impressed

Rays manager Joe Maddon went into a recent replay demonstration and briefing that every club has received saying, "Maybe I'm underplaying this, but just tell me how it works."

He came out three hours later gushing about the technology and attention to detail.

"There are things that may have to be addressed as we move it along," Maddon says, "but they thought about everything — at least it seems that way."

MLB won't give a cost estimate for all of the technology and infrastructure, but the biggest expense is making sure all the video feeds are available in the clubhouses and in New York.

The room in New York is "a TV lover's dream," says Tony Clark, executive director of the players union, which has signed off on the plan. "You have umpires. You have a technician, two monitors and a number of screens around those monitors."

That's for each game.

Every camera from any entity telecasting the game will be available to everyone, eliminating potential conspiracy theories about a home-team director conveniently not having a particular angle available.

MLB added two umpiring crews for this season because two crews will rotate through the command center to handle challenges. One ump will be assigned to monitor two games at a time. Nearly all of the 74 umpires have completed their training.

It's supposed to eliminate controversies such as the blown call in 2010 that deprived Detroit Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga of a perfect game. Umpire Jim Joyce became a celebrity for his tearful meeting with Galarraga the next day.

"Who feels worse in the whole world than the ump?" Dave Phillips, who umpired in the major leagues for 32 years, says of blown calls. "The technology is so phenomenal now that you can see pebbles when guys slide. Give it to the umpires. Everybody else in the world sees it."

Now, it's not only the fans at home watching on TV.

"The Tigers got robbed of a perfect game a few years ago," says John Shagonaby, a fan from Allegan, Mich., who was in Lakeland, Fla., on Thursday to see Detroit play the Atlanta Braves. "And if they had replay, he would've had a perfect game. So I guess I'm in favor of it; it just can't slow down the game too much."

Teams will be mandated to show on stadium videoboards the replays used to uphold or overturn a call. In the past, sports leagues have been reluctant to potentially inflame fans with an unpopular decision. Now, the theory is, fans will see that the ultimate ruling is correct.

Torre and his staff plus former managers Tony La Russa and Jim Leyland, both part of a committee for on-field matters set up by Commissioner Bud Selig, have been part of the sessions with managers, coaches and general managers.

Says Baltimore Orioles manager Buck Showalter, "That gives it instant credibility right there."

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GALLERY: HISTORIC CONTROVERSIAL CALLS

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Low reversal rate?

But it needs more than credibility. It needs to work.

Managers have been encouraged to challenge often during spring training, if only to try out the system, as each team is involved in five televised spring games designated as test games.

Managers won't throw a red flag like NFL coaches. "It would be kind of fun," Tigers manager Brad Ausmus says. "But I think they're worried that some would throw them at the umpires."

Managers can simply yell from the dugout, but they're more likely to go on the field to inform the umpire, if only to create the time needed to get a recommendation from the clubhouse.

"I think one thing we'll find out, and I hope we do, is how good these (umpires) really are," Atlanta Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez says.

An ESPN study of 184 games in 2010 found 1.3 plays a game that couldn't be determined for sure without looking at replays. Of those, 20.4% turned out to be bad calls, 65.7% correct and 13.9% inconclusive.

That's 0.265 calls a game that could be reversed, or about one every four games.

That doesn't mean there won't be the occasional heated discussion, Torre says.

"There are going to be some players arguing," he says. "The manager may go out there and stick up for his player, but he may not want to burn his challenge."

Managers also will have to think about when to use their challenges and recognize that video feeds won't always offer a clear verdict.

And they won't always be happy: Over the last five seasons in the NFL, for example, 41% of reviewed plays were overturned, according to sports data expert STATS.

"Replay is a strategy," Torre says. "There are calls that are going to be overturned. There are going to be calls that are not clear to overturn, going to be some calls that are going to be missed."

Contributing: Jorge L. Ortiz in Peoria, Ariz.; Ted Berg in Lakeland and Clearwater, Fla.; Detroit Free Press

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