It was going to happen sooner or later, but this soon?
Less than a week after “robot umpires” were introduced for calling balls and strikes in the Atlantic League, an independent baseball minor league, there was an ejection over disagreeing with the automated system.
The person ejected was former Twins pitcher Frank Viola, who is the pitching coach of the High Point Rockers.
Viola was annoyed that the umpire working at home plate, who has the authority to overrule the system, didn’t do so on several of the pitches.
Mark Powell described the scene that followed in a blog post on MSN sports.
The web site Close Calls Sports, which describes itself as a web site that” objectively tracks and analyzes close and controversial calls in sport, with great regard for the rules and spirit of the game,” went deeper into the subject – and showed a graphic that reinforced Viola’s displeasure.
Close Call Sports included this excerpt from the ejection report: “With two out and two on (R2, R3) in the bottom of the 1st inning of the Rockers-Revolution game, Revolution batter Ryan Dent took four balls from Rockers starting pitcher Dominic DeMasi around one swinging strike, for a five-pitch walk. Following the at-bat, Viola was heard yelling at Detweiler to ‘do your (bleeping) job’ as the High Point pitching coach demanded the plate umpire step in to overrule ABS, which had deemed DeMasi's recent offerings as balls (Detweiler did not overrule ABS to call any strikes during the Dent AB). Viola then charged out of the dugout and attempted to pursue Detweiler, where he was intercepted by 3B Umpire Bill Worthington and 1B Umpire Kyle Fecteau.”
And of course, there’s video.
And a tweet from Kathy Viola, who is from the Twin Cities and met Frank when she was working for the Twins at the Metrodome.
And here's Frank's own take.
If nothing else, this is likely to push back the timeline on the introduction of automated ball-and-strike systems at higher levels of baseball – and certainly until after Ron Gardenhire retires.