Major League Baseball welcomes the new replay system that will go in effect in a couple of weeks when the 2014 season begins. The eyeball-to-eyeball jawing between the umpires and the managers should abate considerably along with the kicking of sand on the arbiters’ shoes. And there should be fewer ejections of managers and fewer fines handed out by MLB’s front office if this system does what it should to make the game more mistake free as far as the umpires are concerned.

The latest edition of USA Today Sports Weekly took an in-depth look at the new replay system and interviewed several team managers, former umpires and baseball officials. With the new system in place, if a decision by an umpire doesn’t suit the manager and he gets the okay from his team officials watching the replays up in the booth, he can decide whether or not it has enough bearing on the outcome of the inning or even the game to challenge the decision.

According to the article, “Each manager is allowed one challenge in the first six innings. If he is correct, he still has one available. Umpires can initiate video review after the sixth inning if the manager has used his challenge. Otherwise, it’s still up to the manager to decide whether to challenge.”

“When we started this thing, we said what could be so tough about watching TV,” said Joe Torre, the MLB executive vice president who was part of the committee led by former Atlanta Braves general manager John Scheurholz. “It becomes quite complicated.”

Dave Phillips, who umpired in the major leagues for 32 years said, “The technology is so phenomenal now that you can see pebbles when guys slide.”

“Teams will be mandated to show on stadium video boards the replays used to uphold or overturn a call,” the article pointed out. “Sports leagues have been reluctant to potentially inflame fans with an unpopular decision. Now, the theory is, fans will see the ultimate ruling is correct.”

So far in the first two weeks of spring training every team has been briefed by Scheurholz, Torre and their staff plus former managers Jim Leyland and Tony La Russa, both part of a committee for on-field matters set up by Commissioner Bud Selig.

“The questions from managers, who will be the focal points of the challenge system, are about implementation,” the article continues. “They’ve been encouraged to challenge often, if only to test the system, as each team is involved in five televised spring training games designated as test games.

“Plays that can’t be contested are balls and strikes, checked swings, trapped balls in the infield, whether a runner tagging up on a fly ball left too soon, and the so-called ‘neighborhood play’ at second base, where a fielder with the ball might move off the base to avoid a collision with the runner.”

Managers won’t throw a red flag like NFL coaches but can go on the field to inform the umpire. “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.

“With upwards to 60 calls a game that would fall under the replay purview, the umpires’ success rate is impressive. But most of the calls are routine,” the article points out but adds, “MLB studies indicate a play that would be overturned occurs about one time every six games.”

An ESPN study of 184 games in 2010 found 1.3 plays per 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 amounts to 0.265 calls per game that could be reversed, or about one every four games.

Video replay to confirm home runs has been used since 2008 and will not require a challenge. The umpires will initiate this challenge. But the umps won’t make the replay decisions, nor will they leave the field, as they have done to make the home run decisions. Now the umpire will be handed a headset by a technician near home plate and be informed of the decision by a replay umpire in New York.

The room in New York will have two four-man umpiring crews rotating through the command center at all times, with each ump assigned two games at a time to monitor. Nearly all of the 74 umpires have completed their training for the new replay system.

Besides the umpires, there also will be a technician, two monitors and a number of screens around those monitors for each game.

Mini-command centers are being set up in both teams’ clubhouses in every major league stadium. They will have the same video feeds at the same time as the headquarters for the replay system at MLB Advanced Media headquarters in Manhattan. Teams can designate whomever they want to watch from the clubhouse, and that representative will have a phone line directly to the dugout. This creates somewhat of a need for the manager to create at least some delay.

However, teams have been warned about using stalling tactics. Torre expects any challenge to take about a minute to 90 seconds at the most. MLB certainly doesn’t want these games to take any longer than they now do. It should be interesting to say the least.

KWICKIES…The 34-0 Wichita State Shockers will be the first undefeated team to play in the upcoming NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament since Coach Jerry Tarkanian’s 1991 UNLV team that was 30-0. And speaking of teams headed for post-season play, only eight of the 25 teams in last week’s Associated Press Men’s Basketball Poll went through last week without a defeat, including the top two—Florida and Wichita State.

The 23-year-old Patrick Reed may be the next Tiger Woods of pro golf as he protected his four-stroke lead by shooting even par in Sunday’s final round of the PGA Tour Cadillac World Golf Championship at Doral, Fla. to win by one stroke over Bubba Watson and Scotland’s Jamie Donaldson. The Spring, Tx. native in the last seven months has won three PGA events in just 14 starts and as an amateur went 6-0 in matches to lead

Augusta State to two NCAA titles. Reed’s not doing too badly financially, either, picking up $1.53 million for his Doral victory last weekend.

The Seattle Seahawks announced Monday afternoon that they had re-signed defensive lineman Michael Bennett to a four-year contract after rumors circulated that he would be going elsewhere after Tuesday’s free agent signings began. Bennett led the Seahawks in sacks with 8½ last year and his re-signing almost justifies their move last week to release Jasper native Red Bryant, who turned right around and signed a lucrative multi-year contract with Jacksonville.

The Lamar Lady Cardinals basketball team earned byes in the first two rounds of this week’s Southland Conference basketball tourney by finishing in the first-place tie with Stephen F. Austin, each with 13-5 SLC records.

The Lamar baseball team will play their final non-conference game against Prairie View A&M at Vincent-Beck Stadium 4 p.m. today (Wed.) before traveling to Hammond, La. to open Southland Conference play with a weekend series against Southeastern Louisiana. The Cards won a weekend series with the Ivy Leaguers fromHarvard to boost their season record to 11-6.

For the third year in a row Houston Yates has lost in the Class 3A state championship finals to Dallas Madison, losing Saturday 82-70 after shooting just 35 per cent from the floor and making only four-of-24 from behind the three-point line. The Yates Lions were defeated last year by Madison 85-72 and were nipped in 2012 78-75.

JUST BETWEEN US…Several changes were noted during the final few games of the Lamar men’s basketball season after Pat Knight was unceremoniously fired before the end of the season and replaced by Tic Price. Price instituted a no-nonsense policy that put players on the bench for poor defense and played those who Price thought brought energy to the team. Every member of his game-day staff—from coaches to the trainers and student managers— exchanged their polo shirts for suits and ties. Price says he would like to have the job as Lamar’s next head coach but in the same breath says he would like to have larger athletic players, a couple of shooters, wing guys who are 6-4, 6-5 and 6-6 small forwards with a shot-blocker or two. But his big problem is that Lamar is losing only one senior and consequently has only one scholarship available for next season. And those remaining 11 players aren’t too happy about Price’s idea of his “dream team”.