Bad Calls in World Series Had Everyone Talking About Robot Umps

In Monday’s Hot Clicks: Umpiring takes center stage at the World Series, Sam Darnold gets trolled by the Jags and more.
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Is it time for robot umps?

Side-by-side view of bad calls by MLB umpire Lance Barksdale in the World Series

After Game 5 of the World Series there’s one thing on every baseball fan’s mind. Not the question of how differently things might have gone if Max Scherzer wasn’t scratched. Not the Astros being on the verge of a dynasty-making win. Not even the frosty reception of a certain world leader

It’s the umpiring, and specifically whether that job should continue to be conducted by human beings. 

Players on both sides took issue with Lance Barksdale’s calls behind the plate throughout the night but there were two calls that were particularly egregious. 

The first came in the top of the sixth with Tanner Rainey pitching for the Nats. Rainey threw a perfect fastball on the lower inside corner that froze Michael Brantley. Catcher Yan Gomes was just about to start throwing the ball around the horn when Barksdale called it a ball. 

The call of note was this one that went against Nationals outfielder Victor Robles, on a Gerrit Cole fastball that sure looked like it missed wide for ball four. 

Those examples have two words on everybody’s lips: robot umps. 

It’s not just the braying masses on Twitter, either. The Washington Post’s Adam Kilgore asked several Nationals players about whether ball and strike calls should be automated and over at ESPN, Jeff Passan says the robotic zone isn’t a matter of if but when.

I used to be pretty staunchly against robot umps but after last night now I’m not so sure. I thought the need for players to adjust to an umpire who was giving more strike calls on the black on the inside of the plate and fewer on the outside was something that made baseball unique and interesting.

But let’s go back to that Yan Gomes play and pay closer attention to the exchange between the catcher and the umpire. You can hear Barksdale say to Gomes, “You were taking off on me.” And Gomes replies, “Oh, it’s my fault?” What you have there is an umpire refusing to call a strike because he doesn’t appreciate that the catcher assumes it’s a strike. The ump should never insert his ego into the game like that, and even more so in a World Series game. Electronic pitch-tracking machines don’t have egos.

Sam Darnold won’t hear the end of this

In the wake of his instantly famous “seeing ghosts” comment from Monday Night Football, the Jaguars rubbed salt in the wound repeatedly in Sunday’s game in Jacksonville. 

Darnold threw three picks in a Jets loss but said the taunts didn’t bother him

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