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Renzhofer: Technology should replace umpires

Published July 14, 2013 1:01 am
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Bad calls and poor judgement by Major League Baseball umpires are as rare as zombie movies.

An outfielder's catch is ruled a drop even though replay shows the ball was caught and bobbled during the exchange to the throwing hand. A few days later, a shortstop, clearly never in control — the ball is sitting on top of the glove's thumb — drops a throw in the middle of a double play yet is ruled to have possession before the drop.

The first play continues a rally, while the second prevents another. And so it goes.

Expanding replay to include fair and foul balls is clearly overdue. I suggest that the calling of balls and strikes should be taken over by computer.

If tennis can use technology to correctly call in or out on a 120-mph serve, there wouldn't be any problem with a 95-mph fastball.

An umpire is needed only to enforce the rules.

In the prehistoric days — before high definition — umpires enjoyed impunity. Now, high def allows every bang-bang play to be slowed down to its clearest point of view.

And, it turns out, the men in blue aren't quite as accurate as the myth that fans were spoon-fed by announcers.

Nightly now we see baserunners sliding under tags and hitters plagued with inconsistent strike zones. They won't admit it, but an umpire's judgement can also be skewed by emotion, such as complaints from dugouts.

Technology would speed up baseball games — there's no arguing with a computer.

Even the use of replay for home runs only re-enforces how "the human element" can still get it wrong. An incensed Oakland manager Bob Melvin was tossed from a game earlier this season after the umpires ruled a home run a double even though replay clearly showed the ball had cleared the wall.

Will any of this happen? Most likely not in my lifetime. Change in baseball is glacial.

However, there is something that could improve the game. Right now, unless they rob a bank or fail a drug test, umpires have a lifetime job.

Umpires should have to work as hard as the players to maintain their status in the big leagues. At the end of each season, a grading system would relegate the least effective umps back to Triple-A, with the best minor league umpires allowed to work the majors.

They would have to work their way back. Any ump relegated twice would be called out.






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