Ralph Nelson, Major League Baseball's vice president of umpiring, responded Sunday to Curt Schilling's criticism of the QuesTec umpire-evaluation system and indicated Schilling faces discipline beyond paying for the video camera he damaged.
QuesTec's Umpire Information System uses cameras and computers to track pitches in 13 stadiums and grade home-plate umpires on their ball/strike calls.
Schilling called the system a “joke” and “ludicrous” after Saturday's game.
“It's the same strike zone for everybody,” Nelson said. “As far as I'm concerned, Curt is questioning his ability to pitch on a level playing field with every other player. Whether he likes it or not, umpires are treating every player the same. The game has more integrity when umpires are treating every player the same.”
Schilling's response was that “it's not a level playing field. The umpires have admitted as much. It makes umpires more inconsistent and more inconsistent umpiring makes the game drag. . . . The game can't be automated.”
He claimed games at Bank One Ballpark are umpired differently because of the presence of QuesTec. So far this season, Schilling has averaged 81 percent more walks per nine innings at home than on the road and thrown fewer strikes at BOB (66.6 percent) than in away games (68.3 percent).
“If I go to a park and I know (QuesTec) is not there, I'm certainly a little more relaxed,” umpire Mike Winters said Saturday.
“You have to put it in every ballpark or take it out of every ballpark,” D-Backs manager Bob Brenly said Sunday.
“The strike zone has always been very subjective, and players know that going in. But you put umpires in a ballpark with QuesTec and they're calling what they think they're supposed to be calling because of some computerized system. . . . All the players have ever asked for, all the managers have ever asked for, is consistency. Even if that means a guy going off the corner a few inches. And right now, there is no consistency — from day to day, from umpire to umpire, from ballpark to ballpark.
“Sometimes you try to fix things that aren't broken and it just causes more problems.”
The umpires’ union has filed a grievance over the use of the system and last month issued a statement expressing “no confidence in the accuracy or reliability of the QuesTec Umpire Information System in evaluating whether umpires correctly call balls and strikes” in part because it is “heavily dependent upon decisions and actions by the QuesTec ballpark operators.”
“All that we've done is put in a system so the umpires call the plate, call the same strike zone, for every pitcher and for every hitter,” said Nelson, a one-time Pac-10 basketball official and former member of the Diamondbacks front office who joined the commissioner's office in 1999.
“When I got here, one of the concerns clubs had — especially with regards to Atlanta — was that pitchers were getting pitches called strikes based on their reputation and based on their ability to hit the catcher's glove, even if the catcher's glove was 8-10 inches off the plate. Now what we've done is put in a level playing field.”
Schilling was so upset at a couple of pitches called balls in San Diego's two-run third inning Saturday that he smashed a QuesTec camera near the Arizona dugout.
Nelson pointed out the irony of the act, since the camera Schilling attacked measures pitches vertically and Schilling was upset with calls on the corners, which are monitored by a camera mounted at the top of the stadium.
“Whatever the value (of the camera) is, we'll get it and he'll be disciplined,” Nelson said. “I'm sure the commissioner and Mr. (Bob) Watson won't be happy about it.”
Watson is vice president of on-field operations for Major League Baseball.