“Ultimate,” or Bust: “Electronic Strike-Zone” – By John F. Paciorek

For me, Baseball is the greatest sport to play, and watch. But it will never become the “Ultimate” in Sports entertainment until MLB finally gets rid of the last vestige of the agitating human vulnerability factor that denigrates the solemn integrity of the Game – “Umpire-Mortal-Incompetency. To err is human (and inescapable)! But, with access to technology that would correct human  Vulnerability to Err (especially in critical situations), and intentionally not use it, is simply “Asinine.”

From what I’ve observed in watching Baseball Games, I’m amazed at how well the persons umpiring games do observe and make the “calls” with a high degree of accuracy. Recently MLB has taken the “good-initiative” in installing the “instant-replay” video cameras that in most/all cases clarify a questionable circumstance and the umpire’s call regarding the incident. What a positive enhancement to the betterment of the Game! It surely beats the “human-factor” for “getting it right”!

Every single game I’ve watched during this recent Playoff-competition has had situations where the umpire’s judgment behind home-plate was a definite detriment to either the batter or the pitcher. Since players are being “extra patient and tolerant” to an umpire’s missed-call (for fear of possible ejection from the game), they seem to be expected (unfairly) to make up for “his human-error”(somehow). If it’s a called “third-strike” to a precisely attuned batter with a runner in scoring position, or a “ball-four” on a 3-2 count for the pitcher who can commonly “thread-a-needle,” the players’ credibility as well the team’s win or loss is at the discretion of human disparity.

It appears that most commentators have been advised by administrative authority not to point out any umpire error. But, some can’t help but comment when the umpire’s decision is so blatantly incorrect. And it is also obvious to the casual spectator (not always).

It is difficult for the avid sports fan to tolerate any incompetency occurring on the Baseball field, especially from “non-players” whose decisions can have a direct effect on the outcome of the game in which “they” vicariously want their home-team to win (by any and all fair-means). Even the most ardent fan will be at least appeased by a video-replay that validated an unfavorable outcome for his team. Nothing is more egregious to a fan than to detect that the umpire seems to be “guessing” on some of his calls, or a bit inconsistent in his perception.

You hear some commentators mention that even though “the pitch” was obviously “outside/inside” the strike-zone, at least the umpire has been consistent in calling that pitch. What consolation is that to a batter who has “fine-tuned” his visual-mechanics to respond consistently to the height, width, and depth of the pitched ball, or to a pitcher whose fingers, arm, shoulder, and body sensitivity to the precise fluidity of movement that would place the pitched ball where he intended? Should either of them be expected to change his own “model of excellence” to accommodate the mortal incompetency of flawed human frailty? NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!

No human-being (not even Ted Williams, with his incredible eyesight during his playing days, up to slightly beyond 40 years of age) would be able to be 100% accurate with calls behind the plate. Can you image the difficulty of persons over the ages of 50/60 in making accurate calls on 100 MPH fastballs, hard-sinking “splitters,” abruptly changing directions of curve and sliders? And in this modern era of catchers deliberately “framing” pitches with uncanny speed and deception, what human is capable of deducing the accuracy of the pitched ball with even approximate credibility?

Therefore, the only intelligent solution to this obvious conundrum is to install an “electronic ball and strike indicator,” and relieve the home-plate umpire of the “un-doable” task of accurately calling Balls and Strikes in a professional Baseball Game – especially during the most highly competitive venues of Playoff and World Series competition.

In every close game in this year’s Play-Offs, the outcome of those games could have been different if the human being making decisive calls on balls and strikes had been supplemented by the accurate accounting of an electronic indicator of strikes and balls. (I hope MLB is counting the times that the umpires’ calls have influenced an “at-bat” of a batter, or the effectiveness of the pitcher’s strategy.)

Just imagine how much less time would be wasted during any game when a batter or pitcher doesn’t have to suffer the “indignity” of justifiably getting upset with a “bad-call,” then subsequently be ejected from a game (then fined) because a “conscientious” human being had inadvertently made an incorrect decision based simply on “mortal-frailty.” The “solution” is readily at hand! MLB… – DO IT!

I want the skill of the players, teams, and managers to determine the outcome of the game I’m watching, not the haphazard “brilliance” or “guess-work” of a sporadically competent official. Until this is accomplished, Major-League Baseball will be elevated no higher than the plateau of merely the “Penultimate” level of entertainment excellence!

I have other suggestions that could be considered for other less important matters, but the above should be immediately endorsed and acted upon. Thank you. J.F. P.

P. S. Let’s see how much the World Series will be affected by “Human Error!” I can just imagine what kind of Strategy the “Vegas-Bookies” are mounting for this upcoming fiasco – Could be a new but subtle twist on events of 1919!?


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