Fix Baseball Replay? Drop The Umps?

 Photo by Keith Allison

Photo by Keith Allison

There is some debate about instant replays in baseball. Is the system effective? Close to 50% of replay calls have been overturned in the last few years, so in that regard, mission accomplished. Most of the complaints about replay in baseball have nothing to do with getting the calls right but a whole lot to do with way the system works and how it effects the flow of the game. Lots of ink has been spilled about the need to speed up the pace of the replays, putting time limits on the initiation of a review and its conclusion. Various articles complaining about replay mostly deal with streamlining the process. So let’s get bold, let’s really streamline. You want time savings? Then get rid of the umpire all together and there will be no need for replay!

A baseball game in the minors already has made all the ball and strike calls by computer using the Sportvison system you see on tv and ESPN writer Pablo Torres has been advocating for robot umps with the Twitter hashtag #robotumprevolution. Conceivably all the replay complaints of managers stalling, umps taking too much time, and striking the occasional “can’t decide” would be moot if computers were making the calls from the get go. Technology could easily be developed to call safe or out on force plays and at first base. The only seeming difficulty would be tag out plays but I am confident our MIT friends could figure that out.

Baseball has grudgingly made steps into the future with the designated hitter, expanded playoffs and replay, but this may be a bridge too far. Baseball is already missing the classic manager umpire nose to nose confrontations that entertained in the past and eliminating umpires would certainly bring some sterility to the game. It’s your call, accuracy with speed or tradition?

Written by

Thane Ritchie is the founder of Ritchie Capital Management who currently is involved in private equity and energy investments.