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The Wonderful Ambiguity Of The Outside Corner

First of all, let me just acknowledge, formally, that I am Blez' bitch. A company man; shill for the "big guy". It is in fact true that I have to walk Blez' dog (Billy Beane walks Chavy's, Chavy walks mine and Blez walks Billy's) and I have to do Blez' laundry for a year (long story about my attempt to backstab Blez and take over AN). Yet be all that as it may, Blez and I do not always agree on everything and I am about to speak strongly against something I know he favors. And then I'll just pack my things and go quietly.

I hate, abhor, detest, loathe, despise, and also just don't much like the idea of a computerized strike zone. Ick. Eew. Gak. Snort. Bleah. Now catch me after Angel Hernandez has the plate and I might say something I don't really mean, but I firmly believe that the strike zone is one of the classic places where the human element must be maintained.

Why are we so hung up on "getting it right"? Human error is an essential part of sports, and baseball would not be enhanced by replacing professional, subjective, skilled, and fallible human judges with K-Zone. Certainly, baseball could follow tennis' lead and institute electronic foul line sensors that would ensure that fair was never foul, nor foul fair. (What was Shakespeare thinking, by the way? But that's another post.) Baseball could also borrow from the NFL and offer instant replay to allow those occasional bad calls at second base to be overturned. Blown calls, to me, are like blown saves; you hate them but if you got rid of them the game would be just a little less compelling.

I am completely behind standardizing the strike zone so that each umpire is aiming for the same interpretation of "the letters": the interpretation which is actually found in the rule book. That crusade by Sandy Alderson was a worthy one. And I would give full support for requiring Tim McClelland (considered the best balls and strikes umpire in the game) to do what even I could do: give some visual indication of a called strike before the ball is returned to the pitcher.

But as aggravating as a blown call at first base can be, and as frustrating as a wandering strike zone can be, baseball is all about watching very skilled people who are slightly imperfect because they are real. The umpires are no exception, and so a pitch is a strike if the umpire sees it as one. K-Zone, and instant replays, can tell us whether or not the human got it right, but they shouldn't replace the human element in the name of accuracy. Accuracy: overvalued. The human element: undervalued.

<starts packing>