There are some debates that seem to come up during every baseball season. Whether the National League should start using designated hitters; which players deserve to be in the Hall of Fame; why teams should use more, or less, sabermetrics when evaluating talent.
More recently, there’s another topic that evokes some passion and discussion between players, fans, coaches, and everyone in between: robotic umpires.
As MLB starts using more instant replay analysis, the idea of using a machine to call balls and strikes becomes more of a legitimate possibility. The technology is already good enough to implement something like this, and there are certainly reasons why it would be beneficial.
But despite the fact that replacing human umpires with robots would presumably ensure that each pitch is judged with 100 percent precision, it seems most players and coaches don’t like the overall idea. GeekWire visited Safeco Field before a recent Seattle Mariners game to see what people thought about robotic umpires.
Mariners pitcher Felix Hernandez: “I don’t know about that man, it’s a tough question and I don’t want to go into that stuff. It would change the game if it does come.”
Mariners catcher Chris Iannetta: “I’m all for streamlining the game in a lot of ways, but ultimately if you take away some of those things, it no longer becomes baseball. There’s a lot of subjectivity in baseball that we’ve been used to over the history of the game, so it’s built in — both teams are subjected to it and it’s a fair playing field. I like it the way it is and if you start taking those things away, you no longer have the game that people love.”
Mariners third base coach Manny Acta: “I’m actually not into taking the human element out of the game completely. We are never going to be perfect as human beings, and the umpires are a perfect case. We’ve made a lot of progress with replays and all that, but I hope that day does not come. The game is going to change too drastically for the way it’s been played for over 100 years.”
Former Mariners and current Cubs pitcher Mike Montgomery: “I walked a guy in and we lost earlier this year and I thought in that at-bat I threw a strike. It’s just kind of how the game goes. That’s the beauty of baseball. It’s an imperfect game.”
Mariners video coordinator Jimmy Hartley: “We’ve had that discussion in here many times. Personally I’d like to see some more research done into that, maybe do some Spring Training games with it. I think eventually, somewhere down the road it’s going to happen, but players are kind of on the fence on it.”
Mariners play-by-play broadcaster Aaron Goldsmith: “There have been times when I really wish there were robotic umpires. But I think at least right now, it’s a long time coming. There is still that charm of baseball, for so many reasons, but one of the reasons is that there is a human element to baseball. Certainly, that is an ingredient of any sport, but particularly to this one. There is a certain charm of being able to heckle an umpire, and heckling a human is a lot more fun than heckling a computer.”
Check out our interview with Mariners coaches, players, and more about this topic below: