The All-Star game is over and the Major League Baseball season is officially in its second half.
It is obvious the game is changing. The offense is on a record setting pace and pitching is hard to come by even for winning teams. The league has been accused of juicing the ball to allow for more offense. I can see the reasoning. Our society is focused on instant gratification. The younger generation thrives on action. It is not necessarily a bad thing as long as the game retains the integrity it has maintained since the very first pitch in the first game ever.
On the plane ride to our annual family vacation, a USA Today article caught my eye — “Inside the debut of the robot umpires,” which was written by Frank Bodani. The article featured the trial run in the Atlantic League of Professional Baseball All-Star game of the use of the automated ball-strike system. An official in the press box monitors a laptop running a Trackman technology radar system that electronically determines balls and strikes. I am sure Earl Weaver and Casey Stengel are rolling over in their graves at this very moment.
This new system measures the height of each player and creates a strike zone for each hitter. The article stated that present day umpire jobs will remain the same because they must be ready to call their own balls and strikes in case the radar system fails for whatever reason. The pitchers were interviewed after the game and they did not like the system. They felt the new system called high strikes that they had never gotten during their pitching careers and did not give them the same strikes on the inside and outside corners they have been used to getting. The low strike was given about the same as usual. The bottom line is that it would be an adjustment period to acclimate to the new system.
It sounds as if the whole basis for pitching and hitting would change. Since the beginning of the game pitchers have been taught to work the corners and keep the ball down. Hitters have been taught to lay off the high pitch. The whole coaching curve would have to adjust. Another problem occurred during the test run with a small delay in time when relaying the call of a ball or strike. However, the new system seemed to speed up the game.
Fans have not followed baseball like they once did because the game has gotten too slow. Perhaps the time bugs will be worked out of the proposed change in the system, but although I do believe in changing with the times, I still believe some things should withstand the test of time. Baseball is one of those things.
I believe baseball fans still understand that a human factor is key with the game. At one time some of the best old baseball stories were of managers getting kicked out of the game and colorful managers, players and umpires. Progress is important in every facet, but perhaps it can be a blend of old and new. Has instant replay in football and basketball really made the sports more exciting or just more accurate? Is it more important to get everything right or is it more fun to have a human factor part of every decision? The answer appears to be that we are living in an electronic age and hopefully that assures that every situation will be treated equally and fairly.
There are fans who still enjoy seeing a manager getting the hook for arguing with the umpire about balls and strikes. If we did not have so much technology, we could still enjoy the game for the sake of the game. Instant replay timeouts are already a drag, let alone electronic balls and strikes. Baseball has been called the grand old game for a reason.
• My quote of the week comes from newspaper columnist, Sidney J. Harris, “One of the most serious mistakes we can make is to confuse the thing we call “intelligence” with another thing called “judgment.‘’ The two do not always or necessarily go together. Many persons of high intelligence have notoriously poor judgement.”
– Tim Crone, a William Chrisman High School graduate, is a former activities director and coach for Blue Springs High School and is a host of a weekly radio show, “Off the Wall with Tim Crone,” on KCWJ (1030 AM) 6 p.m. every Monday. He writes a weekly column for The Examiner. Reach him at email@example.com.