Photo: Jamie Squire/Getty Images
Lately it’s rare that a day goes by without someone calling for more automation to umpiring in Major League Baseball.As technology advances and baseball embraces it much more slowly compared to other professional sports, fans, players, and managers are all beginning to voice their frustrations.
Aside from having more replay reviews, the one area where technology could significantly alter umpiring is with calling balls and strikes. If you want the correct, rule book strike zone properly enforced just use some sort of machine to make the calls behind the plate, the argument goes.
Here’s what Valentine said prior to Monday’s game versus the Miami Marlins (via the Boston Herald, emphasis ours):
“I don’t know how the Internet works — how about a fax, how about putting a thing in a machine and it showing up in Europe — if they can do that, they can figure out how to call a strike and a ball. Are you kidding me? That isn’t tough. It’s whether or not they want to do it.“
Valentine may sound like a grumpy old manager pissed off about getting a few bad calls, but his reasoning for removing the human element is actually quite valid.
“I think it’s almost impossible to do what they do, so why do we ask them to do the impossible? […] now pitchers are throwing pitches that are moving in that zone, cutting and splitting and moving in the zone your eye can’t see what’s happening, your lens doesn’t snap that photograph and register in the time the ball is moving the last 5 feet. […] We’re asking humans to do a feat a human can’t do.“
Valentine is absolutely correct about this.
It doesn’t mean umpires are not great at what they do. As Valentine also says, they are “very well trained,” but they’re being put in an impossible position.
With all of the advancements we have today (HD cameras, strike zone radar) it makes no sense for baseball to continue this “we like the human element” charade.
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