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).
“(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.”
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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