Automatic strike zones, or ABS, or Robo-umps, have been the Valhalla for a certain section of baseball fans (one I happen to be a part of). Watching Angel Hernandez or Doug Eddings try and guess where the strike zone is today and then acting like the world’s biggest ass-boil when anyone points out that they shouldn’t have a driver’s license much less try and pinpoint where a small rock moving at 100 MPH has crossed an imaginary plane five feet in front of them has gotten very old. The task has really moved beyond anyone’s capability thanks to the wizardry being unleashed from 60 feet, 6 inches these days, but some are better than others.
It appears we will move closer to greater precision, as MLB will have all 30 AAA parks outfitted with electronic strike zones. They will be split between the full Robo-umps that will call every pitch with an earpiece relaying the electronic calls to the home plate ump, and the other half will have the challenge system similar to tennis where each team will get three challenges of calls per game, to be either called for by batter, pitcher, or catcher. Correct challenges will see no loss of future challenges.
The second system is the one seen as the compromise between those who want to continue with the nebulous and frankly bullshit “human element,” and those who want the full electronic method. The fear of going full techno, as it were, is that it will change how hitters, pitchers, and fans perceive the strike zone. Remember, anything that even nicks the zone is a strike, and we might be shocked to see just what gets called and what doesn’t when it isn’t an ump with his own personal take on the subject. Especially as both fans and umps are so heavily influenced by where and how a catcher receives a pitch.
The challenge system will keep us mostly to what we’re used to, except we won’t have to feel aggrieved about big moments late in the games that get usurped by some jackwagon in a mask behind the plate. It will also preserve the value of catchers who frame well, because not every close pitch is going to get challenged and they’ll steal strikes early in the game. Some people think that’s a skill worth preserving. Others think it’s just a measure of how easily umps can be fooled.
It’s obvious that MLB is heading to some sort of change, though the real feature will be how cantankerous umps like Hernandez or Eddings handle getting challenged during a game. No chance they’ll hold a grudge right? Or start their own argument with a batter or catcher after having their authority and precision questioned? That would never happen.
It’s not been the best year for Gerard Piqué, who looked woefully past it the rare times he got on the field for Barcelona, then was mostly taken off of it by his manager and former teammate Xavi, and then upped and retired in the middle of the season due to all of it. He’d also been outed as having stepped out on his long-term girlfriend and mother of his kids, only perhaps the most popular singer the world over, Shakira.
And now he’s about to be flayed by Shakira on a global scale, in case you missed it yesterday.
It’s one thing to get roasted by Taylor Swift while she’s re–recording a previous album to dupe her fans. That’s her thing. You know the drill going into it. But Shakira… this is getting raked over coals the world over. You might as well start a war over Helen of Troy again. Looking for strange while having Shakira at home certainly was an interesting call on Piqué’s part. He’ll wonder soon whether it was all worth it, if he hasn’t already.