MIAMI -- Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine, apparently still not over what he perceived as sketchy umpiring in a three-game sweep by the Washington Nationals at Fenway Park, suggested on Monday that it may be time for Major League Baseball to come up with a new system for calling balls and strikes by taking the human element out of the process and making it more uniform.
Valentine was asked before Monday's game with the Miami Marlins if he had received a call from the commissioner’s office regarding his comments about the umpiring in Sunday’s loss to the Nationals. He said he hadn’t, but added, “I probably will, right? Isn’t that great when that happens? Then they fine you, take your money, reprimand you, as though I did something wrong. It’s great. It’s a great system. I love it.”
Valentine spent the next 10 minutes talking about umpiring. His basic argument: If hitters constantly swing and miss at balls they believe to be strikes, umpires can’t be expected to get all the calls right.
"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," Valentine told reporters.
"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 heard: 'But we like the human factor.' It's 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 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 what 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."
Valentine didn't suggest umpires are incompetent, rather that their job is too difficult.
"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 pitches that are moving in that zone, cutting and splitting and moving in the zone, your eye can’t see what’s happening.
"They’re humans. We’re asking humans to do a feat a human can’t do."
Valentine didn't have an answer as to exactly what changes should be made.
"I don’t know how to do it. I know you can do it. It’s 2012," he said. "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."
Valentine picked up on a theme he introduced following Sunday's loss to the Nationals, when he was ejected in the bottom of the ninth inning for arguing about -- you guessed it -- balls and strikes.
"The game is simple: Throw it over the plate, call it a strike; don't throw it over the plate, call it a ball. Simple," Valentine said Sunday in Boston. "That's all anyone asks. I know it's been going on for 100 years, and I'm not the first one to say it, but this was a pretty lousy series."