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Electronics, Computers, and Judgement Calls

As I watched the final match of the NASDAQ tennis tournament Sunday afternoon and the opening game of Major League Baseball on Sunday evening, I realized there is a major difference in how the two sports use electronics for judgement calls.

  • In tennis, there is a beeper that sounds if the serve is not hit into the proper section of the court. Also, there is rampant speculation that computerized re-enactments will quickly be able to provide better evidence about other line calls during the play.
  • In baseball, there is clearly sophisticated technology available to indicate whether a pitch is a ball or a strike. But we will not likely see it used in any game for a very long time.

Why the difference between the two sports?

My guess is that a major explanation is that MLB umpires are unionized, whereas tennis line officials are sometimes (okay, rarely) volunteers, but are definitely not unionized. This difference suggests that the resistance to using computers and cameras to call strikes and balls in MLB is little more than feather-bedding by the umpires' union.

[long-time readers from rec.sport.baseball may recall that over a decade ago Gary Huckabay urged the use of computers to call balls and strikes in baseball. Computer technology and software are so much better now making his case is even stronger.]

I wonder how Greg Maddux fans would react to the use of computers for calling balls and strikes.