Los Angeles Dodgers star Chase Utley believes baseball Umpires' days are numbered

Alex Broun 17/12/2017
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Six time All-Star and four time Silver Slugger Award winner Chase Utley believes it’s just a matter of time until computers replace umpires in baseball.

The legendary second baseman was speaking in Dubai after playing for the Los Angeles Dodgers in a thrilling 2017 World Series against the victorious Houston Astros, which many have described as one of the greatest Fall Classics of all time.

“I think we will get to that point where a computer will be calling balls and strikes,” said the free agent. “The way a lot of sports are moving, eventually –I don’t know if it’s a good thing – but I think it will happen.”

Although not infallible Utley believes Major League Baseball umpires add a welcome human element to the game.

“I love umpires, not all the time because sometimes they don’t make the right call but that’s what makes it interesting,” he said. “Umpiring has been part of the game for a long time and I enjoy having a rapport with the umpire, it makes it interesting but… they are human. They are going to make mistakes.

“There’s a lot of money involved now in a lot of these sports so to get the call correct I think at the end of the day that’s what everyone is looking for.”

Utley rejects the theory that umpires treat certain players differently.

“Once in a while you think yeah, I like this umpire, we have a good relationship,” he said, “and then he’ll make a call on you that is not in your favour – so no, I don’t think that is the case (that they can be biased).

Utley forces out Josh Reddick of the Houston Astros during the seventh inning in game six of the 2017 World Series.

Utley forces out Josh Reddick of the Houston Astros during the seventh inning in game six of the 2017 World Series.

“(But) there’s some catchers nowadays that do a great job of framing the pitch. So a pitch comes in and they can catch it in a way that makes it look like it’s there (a strike) and obviously there’s guys where it’s a good pitch and the guy is not as gifted and he’ll make it look like a bad pitch.”

Utley, who won the World Series with the Philadelphia Phillies in 2008, said despite celebrating his 39th birthday today he is keen to play on with the Dodgers.

“I still enjoy the competition,” he said, “I enjoy the grind, I enjoy putting in the effort – I enjoy every single day driving to the baseball stadium and I look forward to that.

“When that day comes when I don’t enjoy that drive that’s when it’s time to shut it down.”

The Pasadena-born left-hander says there is no fixed date as to when a decision will be made on his immediate playing future: “(It’s a) flip of the coin. We’ll see.”

Popular Justin Turner of the Los Angeles Dodgers talks in the dugout before game seven of the 2017 World Series at Dodger Stadium.

Popular Justin Turner of the Los Angeles Dodgers talks in the dugout before game seven of the 2017 World Series at Dodger Stadium.

He also strongly rebuked reports that he is considering taking up a bench coaching role with the Phillies.

“That’s not accurate information,” he bristled. “I’m still enjoying playing and I have two boys, three and six, and when I’m done playing baseball I don’t see myself coaching.”

Utley, along with popular third baseman Justin Turner, were in Dubai courtesy of partner Emirates Airlines to hold a clinic at Dubai Little League Park.

The Dodgers stars hosted the clinic for local players followed by a question and answer session before staying on to sign autographs for grateful Little League members.

Spring training begins for the Dodgers in February before the 187-day MLB season starts on March 29.

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Has the World Series helped boost baseball’s stature?

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Young guns: LA’s Corey Seager is one of the bright talents in the World Series.

The Houston Astros beat the Los Angeles Dodgers 13-12 in a thriller on Sunday to take a 3-2 lead in Major League Baseball’s best-of-seven World Series.

A competitive finale to the playoffs has seen plenty of drama between Houston and LA – with the Astros bidding to win the title for the first time with victory in game six on Tuesday.

With this in mind, we ask: Has the World Series helped boost baseball’s stature?

What side are you on in our debate?

Share with us your thoughts by using Twitter or getting in touch via Facebook.

ALEX BROUN, SAYS YES

The 2017 World Series is baseball at its very best. In terms of quality the baseball has been breathtaking, as you would expect in the first matchup between two 100-win teams in the Fall Classic since 1970.

But it also packs all the tension and drama of a good novel – fascinating characters and a suspenseful story with lots of subplots and epic symbolism.

And what characters they are: Jose Altuve, the Astros’ power-hitter and the smallest man in baseball; Yasiel Puig, he of the blue mohawk, who if he’s not licking his bat, is hitting homers; Clayton Kershaw, the best pitcher of his generation who had never before thrown in a World Series; and Evan Gattis who walked away from baseball in 2006 and found himself begging for money in New York City before giving baseball another try.

The Astros have galvanised a city left reeling from the effects of Hurricane Harvey, and have come to epitomise the rallying cry “Houston Strong”, even wearing the “Strong” logo on their jerseys.

Clayton Kershaw.

Clayton Kershaw is the best pitcher of his generation.

Yes, baseball has its challenges: a greying fan base, increasing competition from other sports and a general apathy brought on by a long season. But with this extraordinary World Series, coming on the back of the Cubs’ 100-year drought breaker last season, and it’s not surprising baseball is starting to win back the fans it lost and create some new ones.

The Dodgers’ 6-2 jaw-dropping win in Game 4 led to celebrations in packed establishments all over L.A., more than a few Halloween parties being sparsely attended and some even taking a rest from their Stranger Things 2 binge to watch the ball game.

Game 5 was up against Sunday Night Football, and with this enthralling WS don’t be surprised if baseball finally knocks the NFL off its perch.

Jose Altuve is congratulated by his teammate during game five of the World Series.

JAY ASSER, SAYS NO

Even to the biggest baseball detractor, the MLB playoffs have been difficult to downplay.

From the Wild Card round to five games through the World Series, we’ve seen no shortage of excitement and entertainment.

And there’s no doubt the star power has been compelling, with some of the game’s brightest stars – Aaron Judge of the New York Yankees, Jose Altuve of the Houston Astros and Clayton Kershaw of the Los Angeles Dodgers – showcasing their talent on the grandest stage.

As impressive of a display as the league is putting on right now, there’s still more to do if outsiders are going to be drawn to the game.

That speaks less to any lack of quality regarding these playoffs and more to how much work baseball has to do in order to close the gap with the NFL and the NBA.

Jose Altuve.

Astros star man Jose Altuve.

You could point to the NFL’s event-like nature, or the NBA’s year-round cycle – which reached a fever pitch this summer when several All-Stars switched teams – or pace of play as to why those two leagues appeal more to the younger generation than the MLB.

Some of that may be subjective, of course, but what isn’t are the television ratings.

Game 4 of this year’s World Series actually topped Game 4 of the 2016 edition, with the former netting a rating of 10.6/20 (percentage of US TV households that watched the game/percentage of TV sets in use that were tuned to the game), edging the latter’s mark of 9.3/18 (16.7 million viewers).

That’s encouraging, but still lags the 20.38 million viewers on average this June’s NBA Finals drew.

The MLB is going in the right direction, but one or two playoffs won’t change things overnight.

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College sports stumble into predictable mess as corruption scandal engulfs nation

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Louisville's Rick Pitino is the most high-profile figure involved in the scandal.

America’s worst kept sporting secret has been sensationally laid bare.

College sports here are utterly unique – where else in the world does a nation take such a vested interest in the trials and tribulations of a university team?

It’s an utterly alien concept and one which is hard for many outside of the US to understand.

The system is great in principle – the best basketballers and football players will make it to the pros.

Students – and let’s not forget that’s what they are supposed to be – are given the full superstar treatment even if for at least 75 per cent, the dream will come shuddering to an end once their degree in Dance Science or Extreme House Painting are finished.

With the attention comes money. Absolutely loads of it. Sponsorships, TV deals, merchandise. It’s a multi-billion industry with all sorts of agendas in play for universities at both ends of the scale.

Just as the likes of Michigan State or Georgia want the funds to make their football programmes even stronger, so too do the smaller schools push for the dollar to help their own students and staff.

That’s the only way to explain why small colleges take on powerhouses at football and get routinely thrashed 70-0 while endangering the health of their completely overmatched players.

Yet, therein lies the problem and the root cause for an FBI investigation which has unearthed severe financial irregularity and corruption at schools up and down the land.

Oklahoma State is one of the big-ticket programs named in the scandal.

Oklahoma State is one of the big-ticket programs named in the scandal.

“I’m just surprised it took people this long to find out,” said one unnamed former college hoops player last week.

Oh, well everyone knows now.

Following the revelations last week, 10 arrests were immediately made which saw four assistant coaches accused of attempting to bribe players to come and play for them. A footwear company executive has also been thrown into the mix while highly respected Louisville head coach Rick Pitino has quit and is being questioned by the authorities.

The backstory is straight out of Hollywood and once (if) the dust settles, it will make a rip-roaring blockbuster.

Think Donnie Brasco wearing a pair of Air Jordans.

Back in 2016, agent Marty Blazer, who founded Blazer Capital Management, was charged with wire fraud after conning one of his players out of $550,000 (Dh2m).

After reportedly being told by the athlete to forget about using his money to fund a film project, the man tasked with guiding the athlete’s future allegedly dipped into his bank account.

It gets worse. When the player confronted Blazer, he apparently extracted the funds from another client and paid him back.

Blazer was also accused of illegally paying others to work with fellow agents and financial advisors.

On August 4, Blazer reached a plea agreement with the U.S. Attorney’s office on a number of fraud-related charges.

As a deal breaker, Blazer teamed up with the FBI to help them work on corruption. Meetings were arranged, Blazer would turn up with a hidden camera and secret mic.

And then, like a house of cards, everything began tumbling down.

Former NCAA and NBA ref Rashan Michel and Auburn coach Chuck Person were both caught in the crossfire – Blazer reportedly had Person agree to accept $50,000 (Dh183,000) in bribes.

During another meeting , a player from Auburn met with Blazer who had Person in tow.

“The most important thing is that you…don’t say nothing to nobody. …But don’t share with your sisters, don’t share with any of the team-mates, that’s very important cause this is a violation…of rules, but this is how the NBA players get it done,” Person is reported to have said. How the feds must have smiled as that beauty came over the wires.

So what started out as a delve into a white collar criminal’s nefarious activities unwittingly led the FBI to uncover a dark side of college sports. For too long wealthy colleges have taken advantage of students to help monetise their own establishments with little regard for their futures.

Remember, most will never make it as pros yet receive no payment for taking part in often gruelling sporting schedules which allow them a free education but ultimately no future.

What a horrible, all too predictable, mess.

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