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Commentary: Imagine the perfect umpire

"Good evening baseball fans and welcome to Facebook Field at iTunes Park for Game 4 of the World Series presented by Google. We should have a great game as Beijing tries to sweep the New York Yankees for the second year in a row. But before we get to the lineups, let's meet tonight's umpiring crew.

"Rip Runge will be the Replay Arbiter, whose job, of course, will be to press 'Out' or 'Safe' for any plays on the bases, to press 'Fair' or 'Foul' on all balls put into play, 'Home Run' or 'No Home Run' for rulings on disputed long balls and to have the e-rule book at his fingertips should any questions arise.

"Alongside Runge will be the MLB 'BS' Machine, the sophisticated computer system that calls 'Ball' or 'Strike' for every pitch based on sensors around the edges of home plate and sewn into each player's uniform at the letters and above the knee. We hope you enjoy another perfectly umpired game."

Sound far-fetched?

It does, but not because it couldn't be done. College football uses a replay official in the booth. Tennis utilizes sensors. Pretty much every sport (except for baseball) has something in place to look at important plays and make sure the call is correct.

It's far-fetched because change comes at a glacial pace in baseball, where tradition trumps technology and the "human element" - meaning mistakes made by a bunch of guys with short fuses and big egos - is deemed a valuable part of the equation.

The biggest stories in Major League Baseball over the past week have all had to do with the bunglers in blue who actually believe people pay to see them make decisions.

On Sunday, John Hirschbeck tossed Washington Nationals star Bryce Harper out of a game in the first inning for committing the ultimate sin, at least in the eyes of the umps: "He showed me up."

Yeah, players do occasionally show up the umpires. Usually after the umpires make a lousy call. Sometimes after the umpires make the right call. In either case, the umps should simply make the call and turn away, as Nats manager Davey Johnson suggested after Sunday's game.

On Wednesday, Angel Hernandez's crew failed to recognize that Oakland's Adam Rosales had hit what should have been a game-tying home run, instead ruling that the ball hadn't left the field. This is basically the one call MLB allows umpires to use replay for, and they still couldn't get the call right. The A's lost by one run.

Both teams knew it was a home run. The broadcasters knew it was a home run. Everyone in the park knew it was a home run. Except the umpires. Hernandez later refused to allow a pool reporter to record an interview with him and he essentially blamed the fact that umpires don't get good enough views on good enough equipment to make such calls, both later refuted by MLB. It has been suggested that his refusal to overturn the call made on the field was a protest against replay. The hubris is amazing.

Finally, on Thursday, Fieldin Culbreth's crew allowed Houston Astros manager Bo Porter to remove relief pitcher Wesley Wright even though Wright never faced a batter. This is against the rules, as Angels manager Mike Scioscia correctly pointed out and as pretty much anyone over the age of 8 who has followed baseball knew full well.

But the umps allowed it to happen and Culbreath refused to explain his crew's ruling after the game. MLB said the next day that, in fact, the umpires got it wrong. Again.

There's really no reason to ever have a wrong call during an MLB game. Not with super slow-motion replays and enhanced digital imaging. The umpires like to say they get it right 99 percent of the time, but let's be honest: There might be a handful of close calls per game at first base and a handful of close calls at second base or home plate in a week. As for the third base umpire, he might as well bring a book and catch up on his reading during games.

A replay official in the press box could make an immediate call that would be flashed on scoreboards all over the stadium on the vast majority of plays. The official could take more time on close plays, watching as many reviews as necessary to get it right. Managers could even be given a challenge or two if that was to be deemed necessary.

As for balls and strikes, how nice would it be to get the same, by-the-book strike zone for all games rather than each umpire's interpretation of the strike zone. No more hurlers taking advantage of a guy more than happy to call strikes on pitches three or four inches off the plate. No more batters knowing they don't have to think about swinging at a ball above the belt.

Imagine no more arguments. Imagine no more star players being ejected. Imagine no more history being changed by mistakes from Don Denkinger or Jim Joyce or anyone else on calls that are clear to even casual fans watching at home.

But only imagine it. Because MLB would sooner appoint Pete Rose as commissioner than radically change the way the game is umpired.

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