Rise of the Machines

Photo Credit: Seattle Times | Morry Gash, AP

by: Eric Boston @EricBoston3

Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred recently stated that the league was “much closer than we were a year ago to having the technological capability to actually call the strike zone.”

While admitting that the technology has moved faster than expected, Manfred would not say if using robotic umpires could be in the near future for MLB. Instead, he put the decision onto the owners, “There remains a fundamental question the owners are going to have to address. When you take away the home-plate umpire’s control over the strike zone, you take away a principal piece of his authority in terms of managing the whole game.”

One thing to take away here is that Manfred is not saying there would no longer be a human being behind the plate.

The assumption I would make is that the home-plate ump would still be there to control the flow of the game, be the field leader, and of course, call plays at the plate (which can go to review and include our robot overlords anyway).

In theory, this doesn’t sound like a terrible idea. How many fans have been frustrated by inconsistencies in the strike zone? The zone changes from umpire to umpire making each game different. Robo-umps would create a standard zone and, presumably, get the call correct each time.
However, even if the technology is there, this should not be a move that baseball makes.

Manfred has been all about the pace of play since taking over for former Commissioner Bud Selig. Even though I believe the pace of play is fine, I get trying to attract new fans and shorter games do that easier.

Removing the human element is going to drastically change the game though.

That human element is a part of the highs and, at times unfortunate, lows of baseball. But it is a vital part of the game. It is woven into the fabric of America’s pastime; it is not something that should be easily removed.

If there was one thing I could say to Mr. Manfred it would be this, “Don’t let attracting new fans push out lifelong ones.”

I am all for innovation and expanding your audience, but avoid doing so at the cost of people who have supported you for years. I am not saying that robo-umps will cause people to jump ship – I am also not saying that it won’t.

What are your thoughts? Would you be accepting of strike-zone technology? Let’s discuss in the comments!

1 comment:

  1. Let's get strike zone umps, and slow down the ump shows in the league. You can take that guy and make him part of the review crew.