I could play this New York Times referee game for hours

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I love the referee. I don’t hate them like other baseball fans do. I am always leaning towards leniency. I know that acting in any sport is difficult, ungrateful and completely dangerous for your health in some situations. Umpires makes it the worst, perhaps because they’re in every game, or perhaps because they’ve been the subject of much debate over the past few years to determine if MLB should get rid of the games altogether. referee or not.

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred has stated that he wants a full rollout automatic strike and strike system (ABS) in season 2024. I have nothing against that. What I struggled with was that the New York Times made it seem like an easy job. It cannot. It is confusingly difficult and while after years of referees working their way up to the MLB level you would expect better accuracy and consistency from them, I doubt that any people ordinary, average, everyday city any of us can do better.

The New York Times Challenge Game throw seven pitches at you, all of which are incorrectly called during the 2022 MLB season. Your job is to look at the field map and determine if each one is a ball or an attack. There is no visible strike zone, no pitcher and no point on the map showing you where the ball has crossed the disc, just a quick replay and two options labeled “Ball” or “Attack”. I’m not trying to brag, but I won 7-7 with just the last throw that gave me a lot of trouble. It’s not even really bragging considering the success others have had.

At least the last guy has some sense. It’s not just way more difficult in real time where you need to make a decision moments after the ball hits the catcher’s glove, it’s also the angle at which the umpire sits. For this game, we have the luxury of sitting right behind the plate at an even eye-level with the strike zone. There’s no catcher obstructing our view, and we don’t need to worry about taking the hitters’ height into account, because the hitter isn’t in our peripherals, he’s in our direct line of sight. That’s not going to be the case for most umpires. The catcher can obstruct their view to balls low in the zone, hence why most of the pitches in the game were down low.

I loved playing this game, and I hope the NYT realizes how cool it is and turns it into a full-fledged website with consistent updates so I can spend my off hours convincing myself I could do better than Ángel Hernández. That said, this game also propels the notion that umpires aren’t good at their job, which frankly, isn’t true at all. They deserve more respect. I doubt they’ll get it after so many people got so many of their incorrect calls right.


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