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Friday Bird Droppings: Robot umpires coming soon?

An electronic strike zone will be used at all Triple-A parks this year, and could find its way to the majors soon enough.

Baltimore Orioles v Minnesota Twins
Managers arguing about the umpire’s strike zone could soon become a thing of the past.
Photo by David Berding/Getty Images

Good morning, Camden Chatters.

Yesterday was a fairly quiet day for MLB roster moves, with Carlos Correa finally having successfully completed a physical and signed with Minnesota to take the last remaining big-name free agent off the market. But there was still some notable baseball news, as ESPN’s Buster Olney reported that all Triple-A parks will use an electronic strike zone — slangily referred to as “robot umpires” — for the upcoming 2023 season.

Olney writes that half of the AAA ballparks will have every pitch called by the ABS (Automatic Balls and Strikes) system, while the other half will still have a home plate umpire make the calls but use ABS for ball-strike challenges. (It’s not known yet which system the Orioles’ Triple-A affiliate, Norfolk, will use.) It’s the biggest step yet in an experiment that has been gradually working its way up the minor-league ladder, and a clear indication that MLB hopes to bring the ABS system to the majors sooner rather than later.

Baseball purists will surely scoff at the idea of an electronic strike zone because it deprives the game of the “human element” or some such. But I say bring it on. If there’s a viable, reliable system that can correctly call pitches 100 percent of the time, or close to that, then baseball will be all the better for it. Umpires do their best, but calling pitches with the naked eye — especially those that bend or curve with filthy movement — is an incredibly hard task, even for those fully trained. Most baseball fans have surely seen some missed ball-strike calls that affected the outcome of an at-bat or even a game. The number one priority should be getting the calls right.

Of course, it would be just the Orioles’ luck if an electronic strike zone comes into effect just as they’ve brought up a catcher, Adley Rutschman, who is one of the best pitch-framers in baseball. That valuable skill would become nearly obsolete. Oh well. He’s got a few other skills, too.


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Orioles birthdays and history

Is today your birthday? Happy birthday! Two former Orioles right-handers were born on this day: Oliver Drake (36) and Odell Jones (70).

On this day in 1982, Orioles legend Frank Robinson was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility, a well-deserved honor for one of the biggest superstars in MLB history. Robinson was the first player to win both the NL and AL MVP award, accomplishing the latter in 1966 by winning the Triple Crown and leading the Orioles to their first championship. Among his other feats, Robinson bashed 586 home runs, was a 14-time All-Star, won Rookie of the Year, and was the first African-American manager in MLB history.