DETROIT -- MLB commissioner Rob Manfred thinks computer umpires accurately calling balls and strikes will be available to major league baseball sooner than later. At that point, the people who run baseball will have to discuss if they want to eliminate a human element from the game.
"As a technological matter, I believe we will get to the point that balls and strikes can be called in real time by a machine," Manfred said. "I think you have to make that bet, if you have watched what has happened in recent history."
Manfred did not offer a timetable for when the computerized umps would be up to the task, but he made it sound like he believed the technology could be upon the game relatively soon.
"There is a separate question on whether you want to take the human element of a home plate umpire out of the game," Manfred said. "When the technology gets there, I'm sure the owners will have a conversation on whether they want to go to make that additional move of taking that human element out of the game. Right now, we don't have technology that in real time can more accurately call balls and strikes than our human umpires, who -- let's not forget -- get it right about 95 percent of the time."
If there were computerized umps, there would not be any hurt feelings. This past Saturday, most MLB umpires wore white wristbands in protest of what they said was "abusive behavior" by players.
"I was a little surprised by the umpire protest," Manfred said. "I want to be clear, that protest was a violation of their collective bargaining agreement. We let them know it was a violation of their collective bargaining agreement and we intended to enforce our rights under that agreement. Fortunately, a meeting to have a conversation defused the problem before it became more serious. That is good labor relations in my view."
Manfred said he doesn't think current players are any more abusive toward umpires than those in the past.
In other news, Manfred repeated that the balls are not juiced this year, despite players claiming otherwise.
He also made light of anyone becoming too upset about the Yankees not wearing their pinstriped uniforms at home this weekend. As part of a league-wide initiative, the Yankees will wear alternative jerseys with names or nicknames on the back. It will be the first time the Yankees haven't worn pinstripes at home since 1914.
"Modern civilization is going to probably survive," Manfred said.