Time to Ditch Umps? (Or at Least Some of Them)

Machines might be able to do this job better
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 13, 2009 12:35 PM CDT
Time to Ditch Umps? (Or at Least Some of Them)
Kevin Youkilis tags Howie Kendrick after taking the wide throw at first during the fourth inning in Game 1 of the ALDS Thursday. Umpire CB Bucknor called Kendrick safe.   (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

Joe Mauer smashed a ball to left field in the 11th inning Friday, and it landed fair, a foot inside the line. But it won’t show up on any box score, because umpire Phil Cuzzi, standing just 10 feet away, ruled it foul. It’s just one of several blown calls in this postseason, and as the errors pile up, some are wondering: Do we really need umpires—or could a machine do the job better?

Umpires are good at calling balls and strikes, for example, getting about 95% of calls correct, by the MLB’s reckoning. But the Pitch-f/x zone digital camera-based system is close to 100% accurate, Jonah Keri notes in the Wall Street Journal. “If you could do everything right by technology, it would be the right thing to do,” opines Earl Weaver. Maybe not everything—Bud Selig, among others, believes the human element is important—but surely the need for four umpires in every game is obsolete, Keri argues, especially given they make up to $350,000 a year. (More umpires stories.)

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