March 25, 2006
NEW YORK, NY -- In a move to save on umpire salaries and training efforts Major League Baseball is considering moving to a self-officiating system for the 2007 season. The new system will be modelled after ultimate frisbee, where self-officiating has been working flawlessly since the sport's creation more than three decades ago.
"We are simply spending too much money on umpires," said Bob Dupuy, Major League Baseball's chief operating officer. "And it's also about putting the game back into the hands of the players. Under the new system if a player doesn't like or is completely ignorant of a rule, then he is free to have a discussion about it on the field during the game."
"Let me give you an example of how it will work," Dupuy went on. "Take the standard play at first base. Currently an impartial umpire decides whether the runner beat the throw to the bag or not. With self-officiating, the rule will be that the player on the field with the best perspective makes the call. However, we don't expect that all players will know the rule as written, so teammates of the runner might speak up and say 'It's his call' or something to that effect. Eventually the players will come to an amicable agreement and the game will proceed. It's all going to be very interesting."
The plan does have its detractors. They argue that the players will probably act in their own self-interest, typically making calls in their own favour, and possibly even inventing new rules to suit their needs on the spot. Dupuy laughs these suggestions off. "If that were true, then we'd expect to see all those same problems in ultimate frisbee. From what I understand of that game that simply does not happen. Everyone I know who plays ultimate is always talking about the beauty of self-officiating and how smoothly the games run. There is a pervasive atmosphere of mutual respect between players. I think they call it 'spirit of the game'."
Baseball enthusiast Honus Chesbro is excited about the plan. "One of the best things to come out of this will be the development of 'pick-up' baseball. How many times have you got seventeen of your friends together to go out and play baseball, and then realized: 'Shit! We don't have an umpire. We can't play.'? The rules of the game simply do not provide a way to play without umpires. It's endlessly frustrating. But now kids and adults alike will be able to get out there for impromptu games on neighbourhood fields everywhere."
Other benefits suggested by Dupuy include the need for fans to pay extremely close attention to the game if they wish to have any clue what is going on and the exclusion of troublesome deaf-mutes, who will be unable to make or hear the required verbal calls.
The new rules for 2007 are expected to be available mid-summer.