By Bruce Levine–
CHICAGO (CBS) — The premise of using an automated system to call balls and strikes has been considered by the rules-makers in Major League Baseball.
This concept — a laser system that at one time seemed impossible — is now being considered as an experiment in the minor leagues. Former commissioner Bud Selig warned players association and club owners that technology could open the floodgates to everything being replayed in the future, and he wasn’t wrong.
Earlier this week, Cubs manager Joe Maddon watched a wavering strike zone have an impact on two of his team’s games. He quipped Tuesday evening that what saw was “not the strike zone — the ball zone.”
A proponent of getting it right through whatever method necessary, Maddon for the first time Saturday said he may be in favor of an automated strike zone system replacing an umpire calling balls and strikes — at some point down the line.
“I have been vacillating on that,” Maddon said. “Balls and strikes, there are unintended consequences. Be careful what you wish for. You don’t even know about an electronically controlled zone, which I have been talking about being in favor of recently.”
Maddon thought harder.
“Are the veteran umpires better at understanding the different nuances of the game?” he said. “Does he know what has to be called at certain times? Or, does it need to be more exact? Saying this is the strike zone as opposed to looking at how tall a guy is, how he stands — which would be more important? “
Maddon isn’t sure what system would be perfect.
“I don’t know the answer,” he said. “I am still trying to figure that out myself. We are all looking for the perfect game all the time. We know that is not going to happen.”
Maddon is a fan of the umpires but a pragmatic man of the here and now. He might be unsure because a laser would be tough to argue with when it goes haywire.
“This is a tough one,” Maddon said. “On the bases, I think we nailed it. On balls and strikes, I really can’t come up with a conclusion even to myself. The ball and strike component, I am fascinated by that. I really am. I still would vote for the umpire, number one, but I would like to know more about the electronic thing moving forward. I don’t think it is right around the corner.”
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.