Thursday, February 23, 2017

A walk too far

So now comes the news that baseball is getting rid of the intentional walk, and I all I can say is, I hope a few of the old 1970s Oakland As are still around to see this. They must be having a good laugh, if so. Or, considering that group's Wild West rep, another drink.

I say this because I have a memory, admittedly hazy now, of As catcher Gene Tenace fake-signaling for an intentional walk, then squatting quickly back behind the plate during  the 1972 World Series against the Big Red Machine. The goofy, unconventional As upset the BRM in that Series, and one of the signature moments was Tenace signaling to put Johnny Bench on base, then squatting down as Rollie Fingers fired a third strike that caught Bench flat-footed.

That play never happens if the new rule baseball is instituting were in place -- i.e., a rule that now decrees an intentional walk no longer will be played out on the field with four pitches outside the strike zone, but will simply be signaled from the dugout.

It's all part of baseball's initiative to speed up the pace of play, which the Blob has applauded because, let's face it, the pace of play in baseball these days makes a crawl look like Helio Castroneves on a qualifying run at Indy. It's become in some cases like watching paint dry, only without the drama.

Here's the thing, though: Getting rid of the intentional walk robs the game of those delicious moments, albeit rare, when the pitcher screws up and the batter reaches across the plate and lines one of those lollipop intentional balls to the opposite field. It's the sort of flawed, human moment that makes our games worth the watching.

Plus, there are a million better ways to rev up the pace of play -- most of which involve enforcing rules already place.

For instance; You know those batters who constantly call time to adjust their batting gloves or their jocks or simply to collect their thoughts? That's a violation of the rules, and umpires shouldn't be granting them time in those instances. Instead, they should be saying "Your batting glove is fine. Get in there and hit or I'm counting you out."

I've always wondered, also, why a relief pitcher who's been warming up in the bullpen for 10 minutes needs another five or six or eight warmup pitches once he comes to the mound. No. Sorry. In my world, once you're on the mound, your next pitch is live. Get in there and pitch -- and no taking a long weekend between pitches, either.

There's a rule about that, too, see. And in my world, if you break it, it's a balk and the batter takes his base.

Of course, my world is not baseball's world.

More's the pity.


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