How about a robot umpire to settle the MLB dispute? | National sports

While the NFL has dominated the sports landscape for the past two weekends, Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association have continued to drag and hurt their own popularity.

Negotiations on a new collective bargaining agreement between owners and baseball players are set to resume on Monday, but there is no indication that either side is ready to make the kinds of concessions that would lead to spring training starting in time.

There has been an encouraging development in the world of baseball: MLB is set to expand the use of robot umpires at home plate in the minor leagues, instituting it for the first time in Class AAA games.

Robot (or virtual) umpires would ensure accurate ball-striking calls, eliminate arguments that slow the game’s pace of play, and erase the constant frustration of watching obvious missed calls that could have been corrected by technology.

Give pitchers a real sweetspot and reward them for throwing hits, and baseball’s pace of play will improve. The idea that an old umpire working six games a week could spend three or four hours squatting on an athlete’s shoulder and making consistently accurate calls on 95-mile-per-hour pitches while staring at an invisible rectangle is stupid.

MLB can keep umpires off the plate. They can direct play. They can call fair and foul balls and play home plate. They can make ball-striking calls if the robot’s technology temporarily breaks down. And they can be in charge of the pace of play.

It’s such a simple way to improve the game that MLB and the Players Association should consider it for their collective bargaining.

Before we see an ump robot, we should see an umpire robot.

What makes MLB collective bargaining daunting are the personalities and issues involved. Commissioner Rob Manfred and MLBPA Executive Director Tony Clark are both relatively new to the job, and both seem more concerned with saving face with their constituents than getting a deal done quickly.

They threaten to harm a sport that cannot afford much more damage.

There is nothing more dangerous in a negotiation than someone who wants to win the negotiation, rather than moving towards an agreement acceptable to both parties.

That’s why baseball should institute a negotiation system that empowers an umpire — real or wired — to force a deal if the parties haven’t agreed by Feb. 1.

A robot arbiter would examine the issues and conclude the following:

If it really is a syndicate, it should care more about the player fighting to build a career than pushing its top stars to half a billion dollar deals. Higher minimum wages and higher compensation for minor leaguers are more important to the constituency as a whole.

Maybe it’s as simple as that: no MLB team can draft in the top five two seasons in a row. No one is going to tank for the sixth pick in an unpredictable draft.

Comments are closed.