Dodgers Team News

Dodgers News: Mookie Betts Shares His Feelings on the Robot Ump

MLB commissioner Rob Manfred has made it clear that robot umps are coming and that the calling of balls and strikes will be taken out of the hands of the umpires soon. This is welcome news for a lot of fans, especially because technology allows us to see on TV every time an umpire misses a call, and it can be infuriating to watch an umpire cost your favorite team a game.

A lot of the players, however, aren’t big fans of the robot umps. It’s tough to say why, for sure, but Mookie Betts was on Outkick 360 this week and explained his reasoning for preferring to stick with the human umpires.

I’d do either, because as athletes you can get used to either one. But if I had a choice, if I had a vote, I would definitely say keep the human element of the game. You know, I just enjoy that. If a guy is missing one side of the plate, you can use it to your advantage, or maybe that’s the reason why you lost, or whatever it is. I just enjoy the human side of games, because, you know, sports really in general has just kind of went so technical, so analytical, that you just kind of lose touch with the whole sport. It kind of sucks, but it’s just where life is kind of going towards.

While I sympathize with Mookie and even agree with his thoughts about the human element, where I disagree (strongly) is with the idea that the human element in rules enforcement is a good thing. Imagine driving down the freeway with your cruise control set exactly at the 65-MPH speed limit. CHP officer Frank Poncherello pulls you over and tells you it looked to him like you were going 76, so he’s writing you a ticket. You ask him to please check his radar gun, because you know for sure you weren’t speeding, but he says, “Nah, here at the California Highway Patrol, we value the human element.”

There’s so much room for the human element in baseball. The battle between the pitcher and the batter. An outfielder getting a great jump on a fly ball. A third baseman gobbling up screamer after screamer hit in his direction. Baseball is a beautiful sport because of the human element.

But bad calls by umpires don’t add to the human element — they take away from it. If pitcher uses his human element to perfectly execute a fastball on the outside corner against a great hitter, I want the pitcher rewarded; I don’t want the umpire’s human element to say, “Nah, it looked outside to me.” Similarly, if a batter has honed his human eye so well that he lays off a slider that finishes an inch outside the zone, I don’t want him called out on strikes because it’s really important to us to respect the eyesight of the 56-year-old man with a 230-pound dude blocking his view.

I love Mookie Betts, and I want nothing but the best for him in life and in baseball. But when it comes to robot umps, I want Mookie to be disappointed and I want calls made correctly.

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Jeff Snider

Jeff was born into a Dodgers family in Southern California and is now raising a Dodgers family of his own in Utah. During his previous career as an executive at a technology company, he began writing about baseball in his spare time. After leaving corporate America in 2014, he started doing it professionally. Jeff wrote and edited for Baseball Essential for years before joining Dodgers Nation. He's also the co-host of the Locked On Dodgers podcast, a daily podcast that brings the smart fan's perspective on our Boys in Blue. Jeff has a degree in English from Brigham Young University. Favorite Player: Clayton Kershaw Favorite Moment: Kirk Gibson's homer will always have a place, but Kershaw's homer on Opening Day 2013 might be the winner.


  1. I couldn’t agree more! Electronic balls and strikes is the way to go. I kinda like the hybrid trial the did in minors where umps still called balls/strikes but players got X number of challenges per game. Like replay system. That might actually add to the drama of the games?

    1. I HATE the idea of the challenge system. There’s no limit on how many calls an ump can get wrong, so why limit the number of calls that can get corrected? I don’t need artificial drama.

      1. I think the reluctance to give unlimited challenges would be that the umps miss so many pitches the games would take 5 hours! The answer is EBS of course. Just not sure MLB will make that jump in one leap? Fingers X’d though

  2. Robot umps cannot get here soon enough. I remember in Little League when the ump stood behind the pitcher and called balls and strikes. Seems to me they could get a better view of the pitch from the pitchers mound. Like the view we get on TV.

  3. Robo Umps for balls and strikes are an improvement. They are accurate and consistent! Human umps each have their own strike zones.

  4. What about when an ump blows a call, realizes it, then makes up for it a pitch later with another blown call to fix the previous one that is an obvious mistake? Those are infuriating! Just get it right. The Robos (hopefully) will do that.

  5. I remember the PERFECT GAME and the umpire on first base called the guy safe, when he was out by more than a foot. I like replays and I like robots calling balls and strikes.

  6. You have to have robo balls and strikes, us fans watching the game on TV can see the umps blowing maybe 8-12 pitches a game, its a huge flaw in the game to have a subjective strike zone.

  7. Did people not read the stories about the accuracy of robot calls used in a east coast minor league last year? I believe if I remember correctly at the all-star break they determined the accuracy of the robot ump was just below 90%. I’ll bet if we take angel Hernandez and Joe west out of the equation mlb human umps are better than 90%

  8. I agree with Greg. The main problem is not monitoring the balls and strikes. The main problem is monitoring the umpires. The two examples to which Greg referred are classic. If the umpire union is not going to monitor themselves, eliminate the union. I realize the difficulty in doing that. Also, to call balls and strikes electronically, the technology should be in home plate with the sensor beams going up from the perimeter of the plate.

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