Blown strike call has Red Sox Nation demanding robo umpires

The Red Sox were robbed of a run by an umpire’s mistake

Home plate umpire Adam Beck had a different grasp of the strike zone than essentially everyone else in the ballpark on Wednesday and a difference in opinion led to Boston Red Sox catcher Kevin Plawecki being robbed of an RBI and thrown out of the game.

The Red Sox had the bases loaded in the top of the sixth inning of a tie game when Plawecki stepped to the plate. After fouling off the first two pitches to fall behind 0-2, the veteran catcher patiently worked his way into a full count. The seventh pitch he saw from Braves reliever Collin McHugh was an 89 mph cutter that was well below the strike zone.

At least that’s how most of us saw it. Not Beck. The home plate umpire rung up Plawecki for strike three. Instead of a bases loaded walk to force in the go-ahead run, the Braves escaped the inning without any damage.

After the game, Plawecki addressed the “terrible call” against him, according to MassLive’s Christopher Smith.

“I didn’t need to look at it,” Plawecki said. “But just to see it. Yeah, nobody thought it was a strike, even on the other side. Just watching the replay even, it was kind of a late call. Whatever. It’s just frustrating. It adds to the frustration of the grind we’re on right now. What can you do? Turn the page and we move on.”

Plawecki might be willing to brush it off in order to move on once he was given time to reflect but he was visibly frustrated in the moment, slamming his helmet on the ground before turning to exchange words with Beck. Plawecki isn’t normally one to argue balls and strikes – as is the case with most catchers. He doesn’t appear overly animated during the argument but was given a quick hook anyway.

That prompted manager Alex Cora to storm out toward the plate for a heated discussion that got him ejected as well.

The Red Sox were down a catcher and a manager, both banished by an umpire who was undoubtedly wrong. That strike three pitch wasn’t even close!

The botched call will inevitably have fans clamoring for an electronic strike zone. Umpires have a difficult job, and to their credit, they get it right most of the time. But there are still too many missed calls. Too many mistakes in pivotal situations. An electronic strike zone doesn’t inaccurately view this pitch as a strike. We have the technology. Why not use it?

Another benefit of the electronic strike zone is that it would prevent players like Plawecki from getting tossed from the game in these scenarios. You can’t argue with a robo ump. We don’t know exactly what Plawecki said but it’s hard to imagine he crossed a line based on his track record and body language. Did he say a bad word? Was he showing up the umpire? This ump got his feelings hurt and abused his authority by retaliating with ejections. Robo umps don’t have feelings, they don’t retaliate.

We can’t accurately predict if this call cost the Red Sox the game. It would have given Boston a one-run lead at the time but Orlando Arcia‘s two-run walk-off home run in the ninth might have made it a moot point.

How can we be certain that the Red Sox would have stopped at one run in that sixth inning though? We can’t feel overly confident that Jackie Bradley Jr. was going to keep the rally going but they had McHugh on the ropes after issuing what should have been consecutive walks. The pressure would have been mounting with the bases still loaded. Maybe Boston’s bats break the game open with a big inning reminiscent of the one they had early in the previous game in Atlanta.

We’ll never know because the umpire stole that opportunity from them with a horrendous called strike. Everyone makes mistakes. Beck has probably seen the video by now and realized he screwed up. We can’t bury every umpire who makes a bad call when the real mistake would be avoiding an opportunity to prevent these scenarios by utilizing technology that eliminates the margin for error, taking the decision out of the hands of fallible human beings.