By Michael P. Riccards
With the nation knee-deep in the pandemic and the loss of the spring, it appears very likely that at best we will have a truncated baseball season if any at all.
Some of us believe that as long as we have baseball the Republic is safe but troubled.
Now it appears that Commissioner Rob Manfried is pushing for an automated strike zone with computers calling balls and strikes and then relaying their judgment to the home placate umpire. It is odd that a commissioner who ruined several careers and also the reputation of two clubs for using mechanical means to steal and relay signs is the biggest booster. He has started this idea in the Atlantic Coast League and eventually wants it in the majors too.
If it offends the traditions of baseball to have computers intercept signals from central field, why is it more au courant to do it behind home plate? The current system they are using is having a difficult time with fast balls on the corners, exactly the types of calls the umpires do so well. It also has to regulate some way that the strike zone is different for a guy who is more like Aaron Judge than a modern-day Phil Rizzuto.
Perhaps this Manfried innovation should be saved for the minors where the umpires are less experienced, or perhaps the plate umpire could have the opportunity to overrule the bug in his ear.
Bob Costas, the eminent announcer, has criticized the proposal, but backed off since sports is his bread and butter. In a world that is changing too fast, maybe we need to save some traditional aspects of the familiar. Baseball is too precious to automate.
Michael P. Riccards is the author of 30 books, including The Odes of DiMaggio. He served as president of three colleges, including Fitchburg State University, where the baseball field is named Michael P. Riccards Field in his honor,