It’s the dead of the winter. Everyone is getting punch drunk for baseball. But here is an article from ESPN.com yesterday about something most people would never want to see in the game but I would welcome with open arms.
A computer calling balls and strikes.
It took a while for instant replay. Automated ball-strike calls will be here eventually. Hopefully sooner rather than later.
It’s about getting the calls right. And when we see how many close plays are overturned with replay (nearly half), you have to figure that is about how accurate umpires are with close pitches.
And don’t get me started with the arrogant umpires who say, “I call them this way because it’s my strike zone.” It’s not your strike zone, clown, it’s baseball’s.
We need a way to make sure they get that message once and for all.
Ever since April 9, 2013, I have felt this way. I would be willing to bet, so has Ben Zobrist. Remember this game?
Two outs, ninth inning, Rangers clinging to a one-run lead. Joe Nathan threw a 3-2 pitch that was at least six inches off the plate. So far off that the catcher had trouble catching it. So far off that when the home plate umpire Marty Foster called it strike three, Zobrist was halfway to first. So far off that Joe Nathan walked off the mound laughing and mouthing to himself, “You’ve got to be kidding.”
Want a more painful argument?
We all remember Game 6. But have we forgotten the call that really drove the spike in the 2011 World Series? It was a pitch right down the middle in Game 7 from Scott Feldman. He came on in the fifth to relieve Matt Harrison.
The count was also 3-2, with two outs, and bases were loaded. And Feldman threw a pitch so down the middle that every Rangers fan cringed, sure it was going to end up rattling around the outfield and clear the bases. Instead, Yadier Molina froze and didn’t swing. And we all pumped our fists. Strike three. Inning over. Until Jerry Layne called it ball four, and a run scored, and the dagger was plunged into Rangers fan’s hearts. Instead of being down 3-2, the Rangers eventually walked off that inning down 5-2. It was over. On a bad ball-strike call.
The call was so bad, in fact, the umpire’s union has gotten rid of all video evidence.
Maybe technology could have done what Ron Washington’s in-game decision making skills couldn’t: let the Rangers win a World Series.
I know detractors will say having a computer call balls and strikes will will ruin baseball.
That’s what they said about instant replay.
And the extra wild card.
And the wild card.
And artificial turf.
And domed stadiums.
And free agency.
And divisional play.
And night games.
And televised games.
And protective cups.
And batters wearing helmets.
And the home run fence.
And black players being allowed to play.
And broadcasting games on the radio.
And eliminating the dead ball.
And the batter not being allowed to call his pitch.
And overhand pitches.
And using bases instead of big rocks.