PHOENIX — Chicago Cubs veteran Ben Zobrist has been in favor of an electronic strike zone for several years, and the strike three call on him to end Saturday’s 6-2 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks will only fortify his stance on the matter.
The slider from reliever David Hernandez looked decidedly low, but home plate umpire Mark Wegner rang Zobrist up to end a Cubs rally.
“It’s a tough one,” Zobrist said afterwards. “There’s only been one other one [in 2013] I’ve ever had in my career that felt worse than that, especially to end the game. It’s tough.
“I was a little confused and shocked to what the call was. I said, ‘What did we have on that?’ He said, ‘I had it for a strike.'”
The Cubs were down 6-0 entering the ninth inning but scored twice and chased closer Fernando Rodney before Zobrist stepped to the plate. The struggling World Series MVP needed to reach base for the tying run to come to the plate. Instead, he and his manager were left shaking their heads as they walked off the field.
“I really know Mark knows he messed it up,” manager Joe Maddon stated. “I don’t think anyone feels worse than he does right now. It was a ball, obviously. I’m not going to sit here and rail on him. I think he’s a very good umpire.”
The loss dropped the Cubs into a first-place tie with the St. Louis Cardinals, and Zobrist’s frustration didn’t end with that one call. It gave him another chance to advocate for technology to be used behind the plate.
“If we want to change something like that, we’re going to have an electronic strike zone because human beings are going to make mistakes,” Zobrist said. “Tough situation for that to happen, but he’s probably going to look at it and not be too happy with himself.
“That’s something the league is going to have to look at, when you start ending games and games turn on one pitch like that. It’s an unfortunate situation, and now that we have the technology, we should probably get it right.”
Zobrist said the idea is gaining momentum with players, but he wasn’t sure of the league’s current stance on the issue. He wasn’t bemoaning Wegner as much as the situation.
“It’s part of the game that isn’t fair sometimes,” Zobrist said. “You just have to live with it.”
Maddon added: “All good stuff for us [in the ninth], and it goes away on that call. We’ve all made mistakes, but to end the game on that is very difficult to watch.”