For years, MLB managers, players, coaches, and executives have been clamoring for robot umpires to take over in the world’s top baseball league.
The league has experimented with them in low-level leagues in the minors, but they are getting closer to getting the “promotion” to MLB, according to recent news.
Per a report from the Associated Press, these robot umpires will be implemented in Triple-A, which is the highest level of the minor leaguers, in 2022.
Some huge news in MiLB. Robot umpires coming to AAA. https://t.co/KXgaYk1XyO
— Tommy Birch (@TommyBirch) January 20, 2022
With the news, it becomes evident that MLB wants to test with the technology in the closest level to the majors with an eye of taking these robot umpires to MLB eventually.
In fact, there is a notice on MLB’s website that the league is looking for seasonal employees to implement the Automated Ball-Strike system.
Previous Experiments With The Automated Zone
The AP report states that the league is looking for people to operate the system in the following Triple-A teams: Albuquerque Isotopes, Charlotte Knights, El Paso Chihuahuas, Las Vegas Aviators, Oklahoma City Dodgers, Reno Aces, Round Rock Express, Sacramento River Cats, Salt Lake Bees, Sugar Land Skeeters and Tacoma Rainiers.
The Atlantic League’s All-Star Game in 2019 was the first platform in which the Automated Ball-Strike system was tested.
Starting from there, it was used sparingly in the second half of that campaign.
Some of the top prospects in the 2019 Arizona Fall League complained about the system, specifically with breaking balls.
An umpire can judge whether a breaking ball, during its trajectory towards home, crossed the plate or “touched” the strike zone, and it appears it’s something the system will have to adjust to reading.
Of course, with the absence of a minor league season in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, robot umpires weren’t used.
In 2021, however, they were implemented in eight of the nine locations of the Low-A Southeast League.
What About Umpires?
What will happen with MLB umpires if the system is eventually implemented in the majors?
They agreed to cooperate and provide assistance if the Commissioner’s office decided to go ahead with the robot umpires in MLB.
For now, it remains a possibility for the future rather than a concrete plan.
They will be tested out in some spring training games, if there are some, of course.
As of late January, MLB and the Players Association haven’t agreed on the conditions for a new Collective Bargaining Agreement, or CBA.
Bringing the automated strike zone to MLB is a somewhat difficult step for some of the more traditional fans, not to mention that it affects an entire sector in the MLB industry: umpires.
The human mistake, with the addition of more and better cameras and tech resources, has become more evident, and umpires have been questioned a lot in recent years.
Seriously?? 😯 pic.twitter.com/e57UsMipRz
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) October 11, 2021
But bringing the technology to the at-bats seems like a necessary step toward a fair game.
Only time will tell if, and when, that happens.