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Bobby Valentine would welcome automated ball and strike calls

Jun 12, 2012, 8:49 AM EDT

Washington Nationals v Boston Red Sox Getty Images

Bobby Valentine got ejected arguing balls and strikes on Sunday. Yesterday he was asked about it and went on for some time about how insufficient human umpires are when it comes to calling the balls and the strikes.

He didn’t quite call for robot umpires at first. After talking about how bad it was that umpires can’t get the calls right and after decrying  the “human element,” he said “let the humans do it somehow.”  But then he was pushed a bit:

Reminded that humans are bound to make mistakes in whatever job, Valentine responded: “Don’t make it their job, then. The rule book doesn’t say that the game will be played and arbitrarily ruled.”  Valentine said umpires are “well-trained and very good at what they do. But I think it’s almost impossible to do what they do. So why do we ask them to do the impossible?

He went on to note how these days pitchers throw stuff that has all kinds of crazy late movement that is often invisible from an umpire’s point of view, adding “They can’t see it. They’re humans. We’re asking humans to do a feat that a human can’t do.”

This is probably the closest I’ve heard any active umpire call for automated umpiring of any kind. Indeed, most even stop short of calling for more replay, even right after their teams are boned by a bad call and they all but implore the league to do something about it.  It’s almost as if there is some diktat imposed on managers by the league to avoid talking about such things.

If there is one, though, Valentine certainly ignored it here, even as he tried not to. He’s one guy who would welcome automated ball-and-strike calls. I bet he won’t be the last.

  1. 18thstreet - Jun 12, 2012 at 8:56 AM

    I would welcome a manager who didn’t consider Nick Punto a viable option for pinch hitting.

    Life is full of disappointments.

  2. natstowngreg - Jun 12, 2012 at 9:00 AM

    Um, when did Bobby V. become an umpire?

    He has a point, but it’s hard to take seriously a manager complaining about umpiring after losing 3 in a row. Come back after his team wins 3 in a row and he would have some credibility.

    • 18thstreet - Jun 12, 2012 at 9:05 AM

      Little win streaks do not give one credibility. Grady Little took a team within a couple outs of the World Series. Even if he had, he STILL would have been a terrible manager.

      It’s easier to complain about Valentine now that the time is below .500 (people think I’m less crazy), but he’s horrible.

      • bigharold - Jun 12, 2012 at 9:13 AM

        “It’s easier to complain about Valentine now that the time is below .500 …”

        I think the ease of complaining about Valentine has more to do with the fact that he’s an overbearing loudmouth. He invented the wrap you know? Ask him, .. he’ll tell you all about it.

      • thetruth1313 - Jun 12, 2012 at 9:16 AM

        I have been a Sox fan for a long time. When Bobby V became manager, I gave him the benefit of the doubt. As of now, I cant wait until he is gone. Throwing players under the bus, the constant whining, and he’s a media whore. I will still support the Sox no matter what, but its time for Bobby V to go.

      • natstowngreg - Jun 12, 2012 at 9:17 AM

        Agreed, but that wasn’t my point. I’ve never believed the line about managers wanting fair umpiring. They are invested in winning and want the calls to go their way. Thus, I tend to tune out managers who complain about umpiring after losing, as background noise.

        If you had managers who win and provide constructive criticism about the umpiring, I think it might lead to change. Such managers are few and far between, so that’s probably an unrealistic expectation.

      • 18thstreet - Jun 12, 2012 at 11:28 AM

        Generally speaking, I think of myself as a patient fan, but I’ve been calling for his head from the very day Nick Cafardo started pushing him as the best option for what ailed the team last September. I did not give Bobby Valentine the benefit of the doubt. It was impossible for me to do so, having listened to his garbage on Baseball Tonight and having seen his schtick wear thin while he was managing the Mets.

        He is who I thought he was.

      • thetruth1313 - Jun 12, 2012 at 1:10 PM

        And we let ’em off the hook! … One of the best sports rants ever!

  3. dcollins8 - Jun 12, 2012 at 9:05 AM

    No he doesnt have a point. He has always been a whiner. He is a manipulative guy always has been always will. At least he isnt on espn anymore so no one has to hear how he is God’s gift to baseball

    • hasbeen5 - Jun 12, 2012 at 9:11 AM

      Doesn’t make him wrong about this though.

  4. mybrunoblog - Jun 12, 2012 at 9:13 AM

    No, no, no you guys don’t get it! It is more than Bobby V bitching about umpires. This is vintage Bobby V.
    His team is not playing well so he takes the focus off them and puts it squarely on his shoulders. He used to do this with the Mets all the time…..Look. Red Sox are in last place and we are Talking Bobby V….See….it works!

    • savocabol1 - Jun 12, 2012 at 11:30 AM

      Right, because we all should be talking about how the Red Sox are in last place…..Here is a news flash, baseball doesn’t revolve around Boston…

  5. pisano - Jun 12, 2012 at 9:16 AM

    Bobby, try as hard as you can to get anything done, because it doesn’t appear that you’ll be around too long.

  6. chill1184 - Jun 12, 2012 at 9:30 AM

    Anyone want to start the countdown until V gets fired?

  7. samu0034 - Jun 12, 2012 at 9:45 AM

    I’m saying this based on no data, only what seems to be the case. But I would be totally cool with automating balls and strikes (so long as it’s nearly instantaneous) IF they set it up to call the strike zone as it’s defined vertically. Bottom of the knees to the top of the letters. If they just squeeze the pitchers horizontally but keep the strike zone vertically narrow the game will just return to near what it was in the 90’s offensively speaking.

    • hasbeen5 - Jun 12, 2012 at 9:56 AM

      Let;s just call a strike a strike and a ball a ball, as defined in the rule book. The pitch track things on broadcasts are just about instantaneous, and they could use lights (like the one that indicates a goal in hockey) to show ball or strike as soon as it crosses the plate.

      • dan1111 - Jun 12, 2012 at 10:28 AM

        I like this idea, actually. For all the complaints about the “human element” being removed, this allows the real human element, the players, to work at the top of their ability. Pitchers’ control and batters’ eyes will no longer be held back by inconsistent rulings.

      • samu0034 - Jun 12, 2012 at 1:19 PM

        That was pretty much my point. I don’t know that it’s absolutely true, but it sure seems like the strike zone in practice is short and fat compared to what it’s supposed to be based on the rule book. Anything above the belly button seems like a crapshoot to get called a strike. Call it as it’s defined, and I’d be totally cool with automating balls and strikes.

      • apmn - Jun 13, 2012 at 9:15 AM

        Being able to adjust to different strike zones is part of what makes a great baseball player. It’s one of the many reasons why some guys are in the majors while you and I are hasbeens.

  8. uyf1950 - Jun 12, 2012 at 9:53 AM

    Gotta be honest here. I don’t think MLB (Bud Selig) gives a chit about what Bobby Valentine thinks or would welcome. Just my opinion.

  9. Jason Chalifour - Jun 12, 2012 at 10:04 AM

    You can’t take the “human element” out of baseball. Look at what happened when mankind took the “human element” out of transportation, communication, and manufacturing. The consequences are unimaginable!

    • Jason Chalifour - Jun 12, 2012 at 10:09 AM

      And if there’s any doubt the above was tinged with sarcasm to say the least. You will only take my iPhone out of my cold dead hands. There really is no reason to get these calls wrong when the technology already exists to get them right. Ideally MLb would work with the umpires to figure out the best way to seemlessly implient Strikezone Technology. I’ll be holding my breath for that one.

  10. heyblueyoustink - Jun 12, 2012 at 10:10 AM

    I’d accept automatic umpiring from Twiki only:

    “Biddy, biddy, biddy, strike one Buck!”

    • Utley's Hair - Jun 12, 2012 at 11:06 AM

      I’d like to see the robots throw somebody out for arguing. They should be able to get some serious hangtime.

  11. blabidibla - Jun 12, 2012 at 10:45 AM

    People constantly complain about the inconsistency of called balls and strikes. Machines are far more consistent.

    Of course, humans control the machine’s settings so there will still be a “human element.” There will be glitches. So what happens when the machine fails to read a pitch entirely?

  12. randygnyc - Jun 12, 2012 at 11:13 AM

    I wouldn’t mind an automated system that signals with a light and a sound when a strike is thrown. The pitch tracking systems are pretty accurate. If that can translate onto the field in a workable way, I’d support it. Of course, there’d still need to be a home plate umpire, he’d just have a few less responsibilities.

  13. spankygreen - Jun 12, 2012 at 11:38 AM

    Everything about Boston SUCKS…..Celtics(with Bird), Patriots, Sox and all the fans……Oh yeah, also the guy that poured a little ketchup on his ankle faking an injury, to now filing for bankruptcy…..Don’t forget about that genius of a football coach, yeah the one that cheats!!!!!

    • thetruth1313 - Jun 12, 2012 at 1:13 PM


    • infectorman - Jun 12, 2012 at 2:26 PM

      If that’s the case, why is such a staunch Boston hater such as yourself reading an article about Boston’s baseball team?


  14. papacrick - Jun 12, 2012 at 12:22 PM

    Where was Valentine when the Tigers were getting absolutely hosed by the umpires at Fenway in what was the worst display of officiating in the history of professional sports? He didn’t seem to mind the endless amount of awful calls when the umpires were helping his squad. What goes around comes around I guess..

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Jun 12, 2012 at 12:37 PM

      Fenway in what was the worst display of officiating in the history of professional sports?

      Really, the call at Fenway against the Tigers was the worst in professional sports, not the blown call at first that robbed Galarraga of a perfect game? Or the lack of a call on Maradona’s Hand of God goal? Or the Pacquaio/Bradley fight? But a blown strike three call?

      Hyperbole really is the greatest thing ever…

  15. paperlions - Jun 12, 2012 at 12:55 PM

    I am all for robot umpires so that mistakes aren’t made….next up, robot managers, so that mistakes in strategy are avoided.

  16. psousa1 - Jun 12, 2012 at 1:38 PM

    A couple of things: As a lifelong Sox fan Terry Francona was obviously the best manager ever. Two WS titles.

    Bobby Valentine is a very good manager. Jacoby Ellsbury is breaking up a double play and the SS falls on his shoulder and separates it – Bobby V’s fault? Carl Crawford has Ulnar tendonitis – Bobby V’s fault? Ryan Sweeney and Cody Ross were to platoon in RF? Ross fouls a ball off his foot and breaks it – Bobby V’s fault? The ace, Jon Lester could not get through 3 innings without putting his team in a hole, now he is down to only giving up 4 runs in 6 innings. Bobby V’s fault? David Ortiz, Pedroia (slumping lately) and Ryan Sweeney are the only players pulling their weight on the offensive side. Will Middlebrooks swings the bat well but they have to give Youkilis the playing time so they can deal him and Youkilis is not swinging the bat well. He has pulled every string you can pull. The bullpen has been very good. He is consistent with the way he uses the pen. One big reason why is he lets the starter go as long as he can. For the past 3 years Lester, Beckett and Bucholz would pitch 5 innings and then you see them shaking hands at the end of the 5th.

    Also, pretty obvious he was talking about the Questec and the pressure it puts on umpires.

    • thetruth1313 - Jun 12, 2012 at 2:15 PM

      Those are all great and valid points. What I meant with my post earlier, was that “spat” he had with Youk earlier in the season, and how Dustin made some remarks sticking up for Youk. The radio appearance he’s doing in NY with Micheal Kay. Why is that necessary to do?

      Good teams get past injuries, that doesnt necessarily all fall on Bobby, but he should be rallying the troops to step up. I just dont see him doing that. Of course this is all my opinion and I may be wrong. But I am sure I am not the only one that feels that way about it.

  17. JustMeMike - Jun 12, 2012 at 3:06 PM

    How about all stadiums displaying the pitch tracker after each ball/strike call. Yes, on the scoreboard for everyone in the stadium to see.

    Then MLB, from Joe’ Torre’s department, has a man at each game monitoring the umps accuracy. Okay we won’t require perfection – after all the umps are human, but a grading platform could be established.

    I’m not going to say that these are the exact performance levels required but it would work along lines like this as a rough example:.
    80% accuracy or better – no problem
    70-79% accuracy – requires a warning. Up to three warnings allowed. After that – cash fines
    60-69% – requires a strong warning. Up to three warnings allowed. After that – a suspension.
    below 60 – immediate suspension, if repeated – hit the road jack.

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