For as long as sports have existed, there has always been a certain element of human error involved on both sides. Players make mistakes and officials make mistakes, it’s all part of the game and what helps define sports. As the World Series is getting underway, this seemed like the perfect time to address something that has been irritating me as of late with baseball fans. At some point, this crazy theory about robot umpires and computerized officiating somehow replacing human officials came about. Despite the fact that studies throughout baseball show that umpires get the call right over 90% of the time, fans have still seemed to jump on board with the theory of trying to pretty much eliminate the human element of officiating. Spending as much time on twitter as I do, trust me I have argued with many of these fans and quite frankly I am fucking tired of it. It is idiotic and nothing more than a fantasy concept. As a matter of fact, I have first hand knowledge that proves it is nothing more than a fantasy in the mind of sports fans.
For those who do not know, I umpire for one of the most respected organizations in the state of Florida. Some of my fellow umpires have spent time working in professional baseball. This past summer I had the opportunity to attend a professional umpire seminar and camp in the Philadelphia area that was run by former full-time MLB umpires. Some of the names you might recognize as baseball fans. Charlie Reliford, Ed Rapuano, Chuck Meriwether were all present and part of the training staff.
Obviously, many drills were performed during this camp but many conversations were had too. It was enlightening in many ways. Now, before I go any further let me address the fans who might read this and claim bullshit. You know, the same type of fans I seem to argue with on twitter quite often about this very subject. I have no reason to be dishonest or misleading. With all due respect to anybody that might read this and feel like I am not being 100% honest, you are a fucking dumbass and I seriously hope you die. If that offends you, I am sorry but to paraphrase Ricky Bobby, once I say with all due respect I am allowed to say whatever the hell I want. “It’s in the Geneva Convention”.
— 670 The Score (@670TheScore) October 19, 2017
First off, this whole idea of robot umpires started because of the automated strike zones we see on broadcasts by Fox and TBS. At this camp I learned that plate umpires throughout baseball are actually graded after every game based on a modified version of the automated zone that we see as fans. During the offseason, umpires are furthered trained with these automated zones and they are actually used at the Professional Academy to train new umpires. It was made clear that as these automated zones develop they will continue to be used to better train umpires. However, this silly idea that a computerized zone would one day take the place of an actual home plate umpire was dismissed as complete garbage. It simply will not happen.
MLB is much more interested in using the current technology to further train and improve umpires. Statements from MLB commissioner Rob Manfred have supported this as well. On top of all that, one of the huge concerns that has been stated with the automated zone is it does not take into account the catcher and how he receives the pitch. The catcher could line up on the inside corner, while the pitch comes in on the outside corner. The automated zone might say it is technically a strike but anybody that has played serious baseball at any type of high level will tell you it is not. If the pitcher misses his spot by that wide of a margin he will not get the call because it just looks stupid.
Manfred has addressed this as well. Go back to the fact that studies show umpires get the call right over 90% of the time and there is one simple solution. As sports fans we just need to stop complaining so much about officiating. It has become our new national pastime. Lets just accept the fact that sports and baseball in general is about human error on both sides and that is the way it will continue to be.