I'm a mom and like most other mothers, I have a lot on my plate. I try to maintain a sense of composure, patience and understanding when it comes to my own kids and young people in general. I do work at a university where we are in the business of home growing college students into successful professionals. I believe I do a good job mentoring and modeling appropriate and professional manners for young people, as both a mom and university administrator. Yet kids' tempers typically flare from time to time and anxieties are heightened, especially this time of year during final exams and end of the semester transitioning. Everything is personal to them. And I get that. He did that to him. She said this about about her. This professor gave this grade to me. You know, it's all personal.
So, pardon my lack of enthusiasm for Big Papi's outburst the other evening and Houston Astros manager AJ Hinch's hissy fit the other night. Both of these tantrums stemmed from a disagreement in balls and strikes. And both could have been avoided if balls and strikes were electronically calculated instead of by physical umpires making these decisions. I know what you are saying. It's baseball and it's personal. I mean we are not playing X-Box One or SONY Playstation! Baseball is real life, live action, not a video game. I agree. But what if balls and strikes were calculated by a robot? What if home plate umpires became extinct? And by doing so, we eliminated the need for outbursts where managers and players continue to get thrown out of games?
"The Red Sox made it very interesting in the ninth inning against Andrew Miller. They loaded the bases with one out, bringing David Ortiz to the plate with a chance to be the hero, a role he knows well," reported CBS Sports following the game on Friday night. And then we had a series of questionable calls, hot tempers and angry people. For those of you who don't know, two pitches changed the entire outcome of the game in favor of the Yankees, thankfully. But this could have easily have happened, and has happened to the Yankees.
According to the BrooksBaseball.net PITCH f/x tool which "contains a set of pitch classifications determined by an automated, real-time, neural network algorithm," the following data set was produced on Ortiz's at bat against Miller.
As CBS reported, "McCann getting crossed up made pitch No. 5 look like it was way outside. The 3-2 pitch was down below the zone. Perhaps (the umpire) Kupla was getting back at Ortiz after his tirade following the previous pitch? It has been known to happen." Therefore, my thought process: It's baseball and it's personal. But when is it too personal? Tempers are real human emotions and revenge is a real human action. And when these two converge, we demonstrate our imperfect humanness. So if we already have technology like Brooks PITCHf/x available to us, why not go all out and remove umpires from the game completely?
This idea has been kicked around a lot over the years, and particularly more recently. According to ESPN.com, "One of the most important aspects of any sport is that everybody plays by the same rules. And one thing that's clear is that in baseball, not everybody has the same strike zone." The article goes on to say that we have the technology to automate the function of the home plate umpire and have had it for years. But, unless MLB decides to take it to the next level of implementation, it is not going anywhere. "One of the common arguments against automatic balls and strikes is that we still can't count on the technology, which is a rather strange argument. We have planes that make thousands of imperceptible course directions accurately and without human contact. We have machines that fabricate transistors for CPUs so small that they are only a few atoms wide. We have mapped out the human genome, the very building blocks of our existence. Yet somehow, in baseball, identifying where a white sphere crosses a white pentagon a couple of feet away is some monumental technological challenge? Poppycock."
When we think of MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred's desire to leave his mark, his legacy on baseball, maybe this is it. Much like kids' tempers, baseball players and managers have them too. And they are ugly at best. After all, it's baseball and it's personal. And maybe that's the way it will stay unless MLB decides to pilot some new technology to keep personalities in check and an eye on the ball.
BYB Hot Stove Columnist
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