"I'm not a proponent of slowing the game down," Francona said. "And I do like the part about humans being involved in it. I think that's great. I just think one more human might make it even better."
Francona feels having a fifth umpire would create a built-in off-day of sorts for one member of the crew, helping in cases where an umpire is hurt or fatigued and might need a day off the field. Beyond that, the Tribe manager believes the fifth ump could serve as an official scorer or, at the very least, have access to video to aid in replay or provide feedback for how the strike zone is being called.
"He could also have monitors in front of him, the same ones that we have access to," Francona said. "So he's seeing exactly what we see. There's a lot of games where both dugouts are [complaining] about the plate. You could have communication on the field, whether it's as a teaching tool, or after the game the guy could say, 'Your zone wasn't very good tonight,' or, 'Hey, they're [complaining] about nothing.'
"You know what I'm saying? You could tell him after an inning, 'Hey man, you better tighten up your zone.' It's win-win. You've got the umpires getting the same view we are, and if there are [controversial] plays, I don't know how it would work, but it seems a lot easier where you'd have a little more communication like, 'Hey, you got the call wrong.'"
Francona believes the concept of a fifth umpire could help, but the manager knows it is probably not the entire solution to a complicated situation.
"I know they're talking," Francona said. "I guess that's where I would hand the baton to people smarter than me and say, 'Figure it out.'"
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, and follow him on Twitter @MLBastian. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.