This week has been quite a week for robots and baseball. On Monday, Jose Canseco went on a prolonged Twitter rant, in which he prophesized a future in which human beings would serve robot machines as their pets. On Tuesday, Commissioner Rob Manfred addressed questions from reporters on the feasibility of robots replacing umpires at home plate.
According to Yahoo’s Jeff Passan:
Here are Rob Manfred’s thoughts on robot umpires. tl;dr version: The tech isn’t close to ready yet, and even if it were, he’s not sold. pic.twitter.com/19tB8DwA3H
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) February 21, 2017
So, don’t count on finding any drones or cyborgs at home plate anytime soon. At least not in the majors. Robot umpires have seen work in the minor leagues. Of course, the response from many baseball purists will be that the robots will take away the human element of the game, which can be a good or bad thing depending on your point of view. Do robot, or digital strike zones always get the calls right? Probably not. Will they tend to get more calls right than a human umpire? They probably will.
So is preserving the human element more desirable than having the best chance of getting a call, right? Not in my book. Plenty of games and series have changed on a single play, a single call, or single pitch. The objective of any league should always mandate getting the call right.
If it doesn’t, why bother with any of this? And speaking of the human element, aren’t the players the real human element of baseball? The umpires add an element, however, no one buys their cards or pays to see them. Couldn’t the human vs. robot element be just as entertaining as the human vs human element?
If nothing else, it might bring back the tradition of kicking dirt at the umpire. A little dirt in the gears could knock the ump out of the game. Just saying.
Follow Dylan Gwinn on Twitter: @themightygwinn