As a follow up to my previous post regarding automation of ball and strike calls, some general thoughts on automated officiating. I’ve consistently heard advocates for instant replay in limited situations – i.e. fair or foul balls and out calls on the bases – defend their view as if there’s some sort of limiting principle in play: “It’s not like I’m asking that someone review ball and strike calls.”
I don’t see that there’s any way to craft principled limitations to instant replay or other forms of review in baseball. If we do it for home runs, why not plays at the plate? If we do it for plays at the plate, why not plays at any base? And from there, why not ball and strike calls? In our merciless drive to take error out of the game – after all, we owe that to the players and to ourselves as fans – what is above scrutiny?
In that sense, I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that we’ve finally gone beyond simple review, in which umpires still perhaps have a meaningful role, to complete automation. Zettel’s argument is important insofar as it illustrates that even review will not placate the perfectionists.