MLB commissioner Rob Manfred has made it clear that robot umps are coming and that the calling of balls and strikes will be taken out of the hands of the umpires soon. This is welcome news for a lot of fans, especially because technology allows us to see on TV every time an umpire misses a call, and it can be infuriating to watch an umpire cost your favorite team a game.
A lot of the players, however, aren’t big fans of the robot umps. It’s tough to say why, for sure, but Mookie Betts was on Outkick 360 this week and explained his reasoning for preferring to stick with the human umpires.
I’d do either, because as athletes you can get used to either one. But if I had a choice, if I had a vote, I would definitely say keep the human element of the game. You know, I just enjoy that. If a guy is missing one side of the plate, you can use it to your advantage, or maybe that’s the reason why you lost, or whatever it is. I just enjoy the human side of games, because, you know, sports really in general has just kind of went so technical, so analytical, that you just kind of lose touch with the whole sport. It kind of sucks, but it’s just where life is kind of going towards.
While I sympathize with Mookie and even agree with his thoughts about the human element, where I disagree (strongly) is with the idea that the human element in rules enforcement is a good thing. Imagine driving down the freeway with your cruise control set exactly at the 65-MPH speed limit. CHP officer Frank Poncherello pulls you over and tells you it looked to him like you were going 76, so he’s writing you a ticket. You ask him to please check his radar gun, because you know for sure you weren’t speeding, but he says, “Nah, here at the California Highway Patrol, we value the human element.”
There’s so much room for the human element in baseball. The battle between the pitcher and the batter. An outfielder getting a great jump on a fly ball. A third baseman gobbling up screamer after screamer hit in his direction. Baseball is a beautiful sport because of the human element.
But bad calls by umpires don’t add to the human element — they take away from it. If pitcher uses his human element to perfectly execute a fastball on the outside corner against a great hitter, I want the pitcher rewarded; I don’t want the umpire’s human element to say, “Nah, it looked outside to me.” Similarly, if a batter has honed his human eye so well that he lays off a slider that finishes an inch outside the zone, I don’t want him called out on strikes because it’s really important to us to respect the eyesight of the 56-year-old man with a 230-pound dude blocking his view.
I love Mookie Betts, and I want nothing but the best for him in life and in baseball. But when it comes to robot umps, I want Mookie to be disappointed and I want calls made correctly.
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