The Right Call

By mattmilner

So, I was watching Baseball Tonight a few days ago, and the analysts were discussing something very interesting: technology. Now, I’m going to preface this by saying I generally don’t like Baseball Tonight or ESPN’s baseball coverage in general very much. However, I don’t have MLB Network and anything baseball related is helping me endure the wait until actual games start. Anyway, the discussion was about instant replay and its pros and cons. I’d like to add my two cents on the issue.

As a fan of the game, there is nothing more frustrating than watching an umpire blatantly miss a call down the line, or an obviously dropped fly ball. The consensus on Baseball Tonight was that umpires should have the ability to review plays like this using some kind of technology like that which is used for tennis to review in/out calls on the lines. I agree completely. There is absolutely no reason for the calls to be wrong on plays that affect the game. The technology is available and it can be implemented in a way that won’t slow the game down as much as what the current replay system does for home run calls. It would be simple to display the play on the jumbotron or on a monitor near the umpires in parks that don’t have big screens that would allow the umpires to get the call right, much like they do in tennis. After all, isn’t that their job? Why not use everything at our disposal to make sure the correct calls are made on plays that are that close. There would have to be rules involved, obviously. A manager couldn’t come out to ask for a replay every time they thought a runner beat a throw at first base, but with proper management of the system it could definitely work. I think most fans would agree that using some kind of replay system makes sense and support it, but I want to take it a step farther.

Bobby Valentine, who is awesome just because of the disguise he wore in the dugout after being ejected from a game when he was managing the Mets, (he lost some awesome points later on when he said that OBP wasn’t “the right way to play,” but whatever) said he was in favor of a system that could call balls and strikes accurately. He proposed shooting lasers across the dimensions of the plate and connecting it to a buzzer that the umpire holds or wears to tell if a pitch is a strike or not. I’m not sure how practical this idea is in terms of actual technological viability, but I think he’s on the right track. There is no reason, if the technology exists, that we should have umpires missing balls and strikes. Bobby V pointed out that if we were creating baseball today, there wouldn’t be missed calls like we have now because the technology would be implemented from the start. I think that’s a great way to look at it.

Even if something like lasers across home plate doesn’t happen, there needs to be some kind of system implemented that scores, grades, and merits/demerits umpires for their performances on balls and strikes. That technology exists already in the form of pitch f/x, and should be used to make sure that the umpires in the MLB are actually the best and are consistent with their calls. At the end of the day, it comes down to making sure the events of the game are called the way they are supposed to be: correctly.

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