Baseball

Keeping Baseball Great: Keep The Human Umpire

“I will not ever sit here and criticize an umpire. I’ve known Lance for a very long time and he’s really good. … I know there were some choice words but that’s just in the heat of the moment. But like I said, they’re doing their job, and they do it really well. That’s why they’re an umpire in the World Series. ” This was said by Nationals Skipper, Dave Martinez, after Game 5 of the World Series.

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Umpires and their future have been a great division in the Baseball world as of late. As new technology comes out, and robotic features continue to creep their way into everyday sports, the question was bound to come up: Should MLB have robotic strike zones. Sure, the calls would be more “accurate”, but I argue that it would diminish the game.

One of the greatest relationships in baseball is that of a Catcher, Umpire, and Pitcher. While you may not always see eye to eye, there is a mutual respect for one another knowing that you’re out there to do the best job you can. While there may be some missed calls, more often than not they are justifiable and consistent. Game 5 proved this.

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Joe Robbins

Lance Barksdale, who is highly respected around the league amongst players and coaches, was the home plate umpire for Game 5 of the World Series. While he did miss some calls, one of which he seemingly agreed he missed while the camera zoomed in, he was quite consistent throughout the night. His zone was a little bigger, but that just entices more players to swing and put the ball into play. After all, it’s the World Series, get the bat off your shoulders.

The Human umpire adds an aspect to baseball that would be missed from the game, and most people just simply don’t understand. Catching at the professional level is more than strategy and shot calling. It’s an art form. Being able to take close pitches and frame them for those extra calls. Being able to set up in a way that makes a pitch seem better for the umpire, it’s a mind game. It’s art. It’s something that a robotic umpire wouldn’t take into place. The zone would be cookie cutter and pitchers would be forced to throw less pitchers on the corners, in fear of not getting the called strike when it’s close.

On the other hand, the same can be said for hitters. The theatrics of moving on an inside pitch or leaning over the plate on an outside pitch is there to entice the umpire in their favor. While many claim it shouldn’t matter, it does. It’s human nature. It’s part of the game, that again, the robots won’t take into account.

While bringing robotic umpires into the game sounds amazing, sounds like there won’t be missed calls, it won’t be all that. There won’t be that human error that excites the crowd, or gets the pitchers fired up. There won’t be the coaches battling for their men, giving us the dugout clips of coaches yelling at the umpires. Gone will be the videos of Brett Gardner banging his bat on the Dugout ceiling.

Robot umpires would ruin the game. Human error is part of the game. If it’s bad enough, coaches have a challenge. But if you get called out on a close strike three, then it’s time to remember what every young kid is taught in baseball: put the ball in play, and swing at anything close.

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Featured Picture Credit: Patrick Semansky – Associated Press

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