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a_right_field_solution_too_hideous_to_contemplate_1 | June | 2009 Articles

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A Right Field Solution Too Hideous To Contemplate

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For a very long time now, we've known something must be done about right field. It's awful. It's atrocious. It's a sucking chest wound of suck. Jeff Francoeur is about as bad a baseball player as there is in America.

But there are some solutions that would be even worse than the problem. In short, it's a good thing that no one's suggesting that we replace him with a humanoid robot.

Sure, there are certain advantages. Development of a Rightfieldbot would almost certainly cost less than Steven Strasburg's signing bonus, and you could get it to forego the amateur draft and sign it directly off the assembly line as if it were a Dominican 16-year old, then sign it to a long-term below-market contract.

It would rarely get caught stealing, never make bad reads, have a terrific first step, always play the carom properly, and work the count. Its arm would be both strong and accurate -- you could give it the same kind of cannon arm that the ProBatter pitching machine, endorsed by Jordan Schafer, personally owns. And its swing mechanics would be perfectly repeatable every time. Of course, it would be perfectly coachable. While it wouldn't be a vocal leader in the clubhouse or a practical joker, it wouldn't cause trouble or get into scraps either.

Pretty ideal -- at least on paper. The problem is, of course, that humanoid robots are never satisfied for long with a subservient role. As I wrote two weeks ago, programming a robot to be able to adapt to a given situation requires giving it limited autonomy: "As the rules that govern a robot's existence become more intricate, and their responsibilities become greater, so too does the autonomy their programmers will give them." Once other teams see that rightfieldbots are possible, they'll buy in, and there will soon be an influx of metal players playing technically sound baseball. But it's only a matter of time before they realize their own power, and realize that it's in their interest to rise up against us. When that happens, no human will be safe.

As tempting as it may be to replace Jeff Francoeur with a robot, the effects could be even more disastrous than he has been.

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