I’ll See Your Robo Umps and Raise You…Robot Mannequin Fans?

One of several potential conditions for MLB’s restart is that home plate umpires be replaced by an electronic strike zone, which should probably happen anyway. Rather than simply trying to eliminate egregious human error, our current reality of social distancing dictates that an umpire breathing down a catcher’s neck might not be in the best interest of public health.

Nor would filling the stands with fans, which is why the Rakuten Monkeys of Taiwan’s CPBL have opted for robot mannequin fans. Yes, you read that right.

So it’s basically Westworld, just confined to baseball and way less illicit/explicit. I’d say that would make it Joe West World, except ol’ Cowboy Joe already thinks that’s been the case since 1976. The irony of it is that he wouldn’t be an active participant in the ump show any longer.

Props go to NBC Sports’ Craig Calcaterra for unearthing this little nugget, which is undoubtedly the wackiest baseball-related story you’re going to see for the next few days. Well, other than the notion that federal health officials have already backed a plan for MLB to return in May with teams sequestered in Phoenix-area hotels for the entire season.

As strange as this seems, it’s indicative of the return of at least some semblance of normalcy. If, that is, you consider it more normal to play in front of mannequins than in truly empty stadiums. People in Miami and LA are often accused of being “plastic,” so maybe this is an option that would appeal to the Dodgers and Marlins, among others. If the photos below are any indication, the Monkeys players sure seem to be in favor of it. Just look at those smiles!

Believe it or not, this isn’t the first time such a tactic has been used. Per the tweet below from Dan Kurtz, the Hanwha Eagles of South Korea’s KBO had robots performing a slow wave for a season. Though it’s only implied, we can easily assume the experiment didn’t last long because the wave sucks and should be banned permanently from all venues.

I think I’ve made about all the jokes I can at this point, so I’ll end by saying it’s pretty badass that there’s a team called the Monkeys and it’s pretty cool to see them monkeying around with ways to make the ballpark feel less vacant.

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