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May 10, 2013 8:45 am

Overthinking It: Where the Value of Robot Umpires Ends

14

Ben Lindbergh

Robots aren't a realistic solution for all of umpires' ills.

The building I grew up in had manually operated elevators. They were quaint prewar contraptions that required an attendant to slide a metal screen across the entrance and a pull a hand crank to start the ascent and stop at the desired destination. (They looked a little like this.) When you got to your floor, you felt like you’d earned it. Or you would have, if not for the person paid to take you up and down.

Those elevators had been there as long as the building, so they had tradition and inertia on their side. And most of the time, they did the job as well as a more modern elevator. But they had a tendency to get stuck between floors, they broke down fairly frequently, and they were expensive to service. Eventually, it became clear that to complete another repair would only postpone the inevitable at additional cost, and the manually operated elevators were replaced by the boring kind with buttons. I don’t remember any outcry about preserving the historic human element of the elevators, probably because by that point the would-be preservationists were sick of climbing stairs.

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We all want to see more plays called correctly, but altering the existing umpiring system could have unintended consequences.

The subject of instant replay is once again in the hearts and minds and throats and fingers of our nation’s baseball commentators, spurred on by the existence of actual news on the subject:

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