Los Angeles– Robot Umpires, California tiebreakers and stealing first base. The myriad of options being tested by various leagues and could soon be adopted by Major League Baseball in the coming seasons. A result of attempting to enhance fair play, draw new audiences and increase the speed of games.
But there are ways to increase fair play without resorting to unnecessary gimmicks that will make the game more frustrating for players and fans alike. A perfect example came from High Point Rockers pitching coach Frank Viola. Viola who pitched for the New York Mets became agitated with the program Trackman used by the Atlantic League to help home plate umpires balls and strikes.
On the opposite end, Cody Bellinger was ejected this week for arguing two pitches called for strikes that were outside the plate. Bellinger and Viola’s case shows that home plate umpires need help in maintaining a consistent strike zone but adding newer technology isn’t the answer either. Human error will always come into play organically or in the form of an imperfect system.
Solution: Adopt a system that allows each pitcher and batter one challenge.
Similar to what is seen in tennis which allows a player to rule whether a ball was in or out, batters and pitchers need to be given this option. In less then 30 seconds, a replay booth using a 3-D model should be able to tell whether a pitch was a ball or strike. If a player is correct, they get to keep their challenge until they are wrong. If a player loses a challenge, their privilege is gone for the rest of the game.
This system will not only help batters and pitchers but will hold umpires accountable while maintaining the integrity of the game. One of the principles of baseball is that it is a game uprooted in failure. For over a century, the MLB has thrived on its players being able to defy the laws of physics.
Players and managers want consistency and there seems to be clear lack of understanding on what defines the strike zone. A study done at Boston University showed that MLB umpires missed over 30,000 balls and strikes calls.
Giving players the option to challenge balls and strikes will bring an increased level of fairness to baseball.
New York Post
Boston University Questrom School of Business
Written by Ethan Hanson