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Bobby Valentine on umps calling balls, strikes: ‘We’re asking humans to do a feat a human can’t do’

06.11.12 at 6:11 pm ET
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MIAMI ‘€“ Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine didn’€™t necessarily have umpires on his mind prior to his team’€™s series-opener against the Marlins Monday, but he did have some thoughts on their job.

For almost 10 minutes during the manager’€™s pre-game meeting with the media, Valentine talked about how it would be his desire to take the human element out of calling balls strikes, saying at one point, ‘€œWe’€™re asking humans to do a feat a human can’€™t do.’€

The following is Valentine’€™s thoughts on the matter:

(Regarding a different approach to calling balls and strikes)

When I mention a better solution I think that’s when umpires don’t like me. My thought on that whole thing is this: From the time now that people pay hundreds if not thousands of dollars to teach their kids to play this great game of ours, the No. 1 thing they try to do is teach their pitchers to throw the ball over the plate. They teach their hitter to swing at strikes and take balls. When I did the LIttle League World Series I thought it was the most criminal thing I ever saw. I wanted to cry when a kid in the sixth inning with the bases loaded and his team down by one run was called out on a strike three on a pitch that was six inches outside. He couldn’t reach it with his bat. I cried for him. And that kid is scarred for life playing our game by an injustice. And then someone says the most ridiculous words that I ever hear: “But we like the human factor.” It was criminal that we allow our game to scar a young person like that, and then it continues on. I think in 2012 it should not be part of the process. I don’t think it should be.

(On the inconsistency of the strike zone)

I want a ball called a ball and a strike called a strike, and figure out how to do it. Let the humans do it, somehow. That’s that the game is. It’s not Eric Gregg’s strike zone. It’s not what our game is. I don’t care what anyone says. I could get fined for it every day of my life. It’s my belief. Our game is not somebody else’s strike zone. Our game is what the book says. That’s how it should be played from Little League to Cooperstown, to make it fair, to make it right.

(On following the right intentions)

The rule book doesn’t say that the game will be played arbitrarily ruled. It doesn’t say that. It says it will be ruled, this way. I don’t know. I could be totally wrong.

(The difficulty of the umpires’€™ jobs)

I think they’re very well trained, and I think they’re very good at what they do. I think it’s almost impossible to do what they do, so why do we ask them to do the impossible. If in fact you can’t see the ball the last five feet, and now pitchers are throwing pitchers that are throwing pitches that are moving in that zone, cutting and splitting and moving in the zone your eye can’t see what’s happening. Your lens doesn’t snap that photograph and register in the time the ball is moving the last five feet. So if you can’t see it, why are we asking them to call it? They can’t see it. They’re humans. We’re asking humans to do a feat a human can’t do.

(When the frustration regarding the process came to a head)

Doing Little League games with ESPN, that’s when I got most frustrated.

(On what changes might be made)

I don’t know how to do it. I know you can do it. It’s 2012. Maybe it should start in Little League. Start it so the kid doesn’t go home crying and not want to play our game again because of this thing that happened, and it’s happening thousands of times a day. I think it’s a flaw. I’m not talking about what happened this weekend, or what’s going to happen tonight. I know it’s part of the game, but I say it shouldn’t be.

I don’t know how the internet works. How about a fax. How about putting a thing in a machine and it showing up in Europe. If they can do that, they can figure out how to call a strike and a ball. Are you kidding me? That isn’t tough. it’s whether or not they want to do it.

(Did you contemplate the dynamic as a younger player?)

I never thought about it when I was kid, I don’t think. I never thought they could do it. But it’s a simple thing. And it’s not like you lose anybody’s job. I think a lot of umpires would be relieved if they thought they got it right every time. I don’t think they want to ever be wrong. Why would they ever want to make a mistake? Have people think they didn’t do their job well, who the heck wants that? Think they have jollies saying, ‘I called that guy out on a ball and that was really cool.’ They don’t like that. They really don’t, I don’t think.

(Last time they admitted wrong)

The other night. I went out and somebody said, ‘Yeah, it was low.’ Hey, I get that. It doesn’t help the case. These are not bad guys. I haven’t met really bad guys, managing and playing the game of baseball.

(More on the difficulty of the umpires’€™ jobs)

If a ball is going 90 mph and you can’t see it for the last six feet it’s in flight, if that’s true, and I believe whole heartedly that it is, than people will start to realize why are we asking them to do it. We’re asking them to do the impossible.

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