Chicago Cubs: The electronic strike zone is coming to baseball
By Jim Guzior
The electronic strike zone graced headlines this week – as the Cubs and the other 29 big league teams briefly believed it would be coming to games this spring.
As Cubs fans turned the page on the annual Cubs Convention, Major League Baseball made one of the biggest announcements in the history of the game – at the very least, the next biggest thing since instant replay. The league did so in passing fashion by MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred, who tends to casually drop bombs during his public appearances.
Within 24 hours of the announcement, the MLB umpires’ union clarified what exactly this would mean once Spring Training games kick off next month.
"“Reports that MLB will use ‘robo-umps’ to call balls and strikes in spring training games this year are completely inaccurate. … Our understanding is that a camera-based tracking system will be running in the background during some spring training games for technology development and training purposes. But any game in which a Major League Baseball umpire is working will have a human calling balls and strikes.”"
I give Manfred credit. Maybe he wanted fans to believe this was coming in mere weeks to gauge public sentiment. Would fans be tarring and feathering his likeness in Times Square? Would the fans in Houston, already reeling from the consequences of the recent sign-stealing scandal, be able to take another shock? If that’s true and Manfred carefully planned this little snafu, than he would be pleasantly surprised at the generally positive way most fans took the news.
Of course, the sports writers reported it right away because let’s face it: it would be historical. Technically its borderline historical right now even with the league just running the system in the background during games, but since it (at least for now) won’t have any impact on the game, it’s not as sexy – but it’s trending that way, regardless.
So where is the game at with this technology Manfred told the whole world about this week? Based on what we heard from the commissioner, it seems like we’re at the doorstep of tremendous change in the game. Will we be ready for that leap? How will it impact the game itself and the players?