Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Technology in baseball eliminates nuance of human element

By Dennis Topakov

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As many of you may know our beloved Red Sox have made it to the World Series yet again. During the third game of the series at Busch Stadium, home of the opposing St. Louis Cardinals, Boston third baseman Will Middlebrooks found himself in the middle, pun intended, of a controversial call. He fell to the ground diving for a baseball while the runner on third base was attempting to advance on the hit for the game-winning run. Middlebrooks did not get up, resulting in the runner tripping over his body. The umpire, Jim Joyce, ruled Cardinals baserunner Allen Craig safe, calling Middlebrooks for “obstruction.”

Such a call had never been made in a World Series, let alone ended a game. This left the public questioning whether the right call had been made and whether or not Jim Joyce was in the correct positioning to make such a call in the first place. Such an argument yields the questions of whether or not managers should have the chance to challenge calls within the game, similar to the NFL, or whether all calls should just be made with a computer in order the attain the correct outcome.

Adding technology into the baseball world, which has survived so many years on pure individual judgment, is very tricky. If we cross the line into adding technology now, then when will we draw the line to stop? One can argue that just like in the job market, as workers lost jobs due to technological advances in factories, umpires will lose jobs to instant replay and the implementation of other new technology. Jim Joyce may have made a controversial call, but, right or wrong, it is the players’ jobs to put their heads down and live with the outcome. Instead various MLB managers and players cry and whine to the media about how the umpires made a bad call.

Being a catcher on the club baseball team, I deal with umpires very closely throughout games. It is a routine for me to familiarize myself with each umpire and their nuances when it comes to calls on the base paths, strictness and strike zone. I relish in the fact that our game can potentially vary based on my relationship with said umpires. However, if machines are brought in to judge and review every play, this humane aspect of a “relationship” gets thrown out of the window. We are left expecting the perfect outcome which, I believe, makes us spoiled.

The game of baseball is not only a national pastime, but it is also a unique game in that everything is totally controlled by the judgment of people. Those same people should be allowed to make occasional mistakes. After all, the game itself is built upon failure. On average, a great hitter only succeeds a third of the time. Therefore I believe instant replay and technology should be left out of baseball. As fans we need to accept it and enjoy the game for its purity and human aspects of failure and risk.

Dennis Topakov is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at [email protected]

4 Comments

4 Responses to “Technology in baseball eliminates nuance of human element”

  1. DDD on October 30th, 2013 9:16 pm

    The human element should be limited as much as possible to the active participants. The integrity of the game demands that officiating be as perfect as possible, especially at the highest level of the sport. If a pitcher throws a strike it deserves to be called a strike. If a batter holds off on a ball he deserves to get credit for recognizing the ball. Fans don’t watch sports for the unscripted bad calls by officials. They watch sports to see the unscripted drama of the athletes playing.

  2. Jerry Duncan on October 31st, 2013 9:34 pm

    I’m strongly apposed to any type of video intrusion that will only serve to further slow down an already slow sport.(at least at the Pro level). The fact is that until an Umpire reaches the Pro level, it is unlikely that many won’t have to deal with “Big Brother” given that only a small number will ever succeed to that level. The Bottom line is that many of today’s Pro Umpires exhibit improper mechanics, which will only to more plays “blowing up” in their faces, which has now lead us down the road into video replays to help us get the play right. When the real answer has been and will always be, better trained and fundamentally strong Umpires.

  3. Alex on November 10th, 2013 2:26 am

    “I relish in the fact that our game can potentially vary based on my relationship with said umpires.”

    But that’s just the thing – SHOULD the game vary depending on the umpires and their relationships with the players? I imagine a lot of people would say that they watch baseball to see what the players will do, not what the umpires will decide. I don’t see this human element of the umpires’ mistakes as being necessarily a good thing.

  4. Jamie on November 10th, 2013 4:18 pm

    Here, here! The drive for perfection in sports is understandable and admirable – both when it comes to the players and when it comes to making fair judgments – but we should not take it so far that we conclude it’s better to replace people with machines.

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