Steeerike threeee! Yer Out!

Blind Umpire

Is This How You See The Ump?

Last month, during the third game of the 2012 World Series, there was a pitch that was called as a third strike. Seconds after the call, which ended the at-bat for whichever team was up for that inning, there was a graphic shown of the strike zone and the location of the ball as it passed the plate. It was clearly outside the strike zone and, therefore, should not have been called a strike.

It got me thinking. We use technology to help us with a lot of things and it seems to me calling balls and strikes ought to be one of the things we consider using it for. I have no doubt the technology not only exists, but that it’s currently being used during baseball games. They showed the graphic and, frankly, inasmuch as they’ve been able to obtain the speed of the ball using radar for years, I see no reason they can’t use it to ascertain the exact track of the ball.

Now, I no longer watch much baseball. Ever since the game showed their disdain for their fans by canceling the 1994 World Series through the inability of the players and owners to reach an agreement on how they would divvy up the enormous sums of money they garner each season, I have determined not to be a contributor. Amazingly enough, I have managed to make it through most every season without paying attention and my life has continued rather nicely. I have, on occasion, attended a game or two in all these years, but only because I was invited and did not wish to ignore the generosity of someone whom I respect.

I have also watched many of the games in the World Series over the years, though not much lately. The one I watched this year was – I believe – the third game of the series between San Francisco and Detroit. It was the first game I had seen all year. Frankly, I’d rather watch golf; I’d actually rather play golf, but that’s another story. Besides, it’s difficult to play golf in the dark. I’ve heard Stevie Wonder does it. 🙂

Since I began writing this particular post, I’ve spoken to several friends who are baseball fans and asked them what they thought about the concept of using technology to replace the home plate umpire. Not one of them thought it a good idea. I’m not surprised. There is something to be said about the human factor in games involving humans. After all, if we could replace the umpire with a near-infallible robot, why not seek to replace the batter/runner with a robot capable of calculating the trajectory of the ball when pitched? That would suggest the possibility of a home run each at bat, obviating the need for fielders. Oy! Now my head hurts thinking about this.

I’m sorry I brought it up.

About Rick Ladd

I retired nearly 13 years ago, though I've continued to work during most of the time since then. I'm hoping to return to work on the RS-25 rocket engine program (formerly the SSME) which will power our return to the moon. Mostly I'm just cruising, making the most of what time I have remaining. Although my time is nearly up, I still care deeply about the kind of world I'll be leaving to those who follow me and, to that end, I am devoted to seeing the forces of repression and authoritarianism are at least held at bay, if not crushed out of existence. I write about things that interest me and, as an eclectic soul, my interests run the gamut from science to spirituality, governance to economics, art and engineering. I'm hopeful one day my children will read what I've left behind. View all posts by Rick Ladd

2 responses to “Steeerike threeee! Yer Out!

  • Rick Ladd

    Great comment, Martijn. Thank you. As you can see, I ended up thinking the use of machines in sport is probably a bad idea, as it’s the human element that makes sport so compelling. However, as you have pointed out, accuracy and transparency in politics, economics, and governance can be a very good thing for the vast majority. I look forward to your post. Thanks again.


  • Martijn Linssen

    This is a topic for most sports, if not all. So many accurate measures available through technology.

    It’s odd, isn’t it? The rules are strict and clear, and the difference between in and and out can be defined in millimeters, or at least an inch. Yet the application of rules is up to human observation and interpretation. Why?

    Well, what would happen if we had technology aid umpires, possibly leading decisions in some cases?
    It would teach us voting cattle, tax cattle and consumer cattle that decision making can be fully transparent. What if we were to apply that to politics, council taxes, government salaries? We would be appalled

    In NL we introduced the rule that no one in public office can make more than the prime minister, which I think is very very fair. I’d even think 75% of that is more than enough. In hard cash, that translates to 180k euros a year before taxes, which would leave you with 100k net

    It turned there were thousands making way more than that. Thousands. The director of the national lottery was making 420k – for what? How important or busy a job is that? Needless to say, she tried to explain but utterly failed.
    Of course we had to wait for her contract to end before that could be changed, but the message was clear: transparency is a b*tch for some, yet a blessing for the majority

    You got me thinking Rick – post on its way!


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