Baseball would be a better game with an electronic strike zone.
All the squabbling over balls and strikes that has persisted since John J. McGraw was chewing on Hank O’Day’s ass back in the day is now, at long last, avoidable.
Season after season, decade after decade, players, managers, coaches and umpires come and go but the bellyaching over balls and strikes remains. Take calling the plate off the plate umpire and – what with replays and reviews – there would be very little to bellyache about.
How civilized that would be.
But what really breaks my heart is to see a pitcher in the throes of an impossible situation – bases loaded, ninth inning, tie game, 3-2 count – paint the outside corner at the knees and have the pitch of his dreams called a ball for a walk-off base on balls.
Equally galling is to see the hitter in that situation take a pitch three inches off the plate that is called a strike. The catcher charges out to hug the pitcher, fireworks light up the purple sky, the crowd goes bonkers and the poor hitter who has spent a career developing the kind of plate discipline he has just displayed walks off the goat.
Not fair. It’s just not fair. The game means too much to too many people for that to happen.
The umpires I crossed paths with during my three decades spent covering minor-league baseball seemed like most of the rest of us – good people wanting to do a good job. The ones I encountered were young and still learning, but they certainly weren’t villains or ne’er-do-wells.
But they are being asked to do is way too often humanly impossible. The rules of the game state that a pitch only has to cross any sliver of the plate to be called a strike, and the pitches of today are of the darting, dipping, cutting, sliding, waffling, spinning variety that have been known to arrive at speeds in excess of 100 miles an hour.
Good luck with that.
Don’t give me that balderdash about the “human element.’’ And what I’m not about to stand and listen to is how each umpire has his own personal zone, and how some are “pitchers’ umpires’’ and others are “hitters’ umpires’’ and how it’s up to the players to adjust.
Hogwash. Where does it say in the rule book it’s up to to player to alter his tactics and game-plan to adhere to the preference, if not whim, of a guy who gets paid whether he makes the right call or not?
Finally, at long last, we can clean up this sordid aspect of the game, the one that has induced so much of the bitching, moaning and corrosive ill will over the years.
We have cameras. We have computers. Heavens to Old Hoss Radbourn, we even have lasers.
The technology exits.
Institute the electronic strike zone for the 2018 season and it will be a far better game. MLB can even get really go 21st century with it and wire the plate in such a way that it turns a bright red whenever a pitch that is taken crosses the plate.
Once it’s done, it won’t take a couple of series for everyone to realize what a bad idea it was for humans to call – check that, attempt to call – balls and strikes.