In the category of “why wasn’t this implemented when Kenesaw Mountain Landis was commissioner“, it appears baseball will move toward eradicating the “fake the third, throw to first” move for right handed pitchers. ESPN Senior Writer Jayson Stark is reporting that this is one of three changes coming out of the owners meetings (but who cares about assistant coach counts or what language experts are allowed to visit the mound). This has a profound effect on watching the game in a number of ways.
1) Fans don’t have to listen to announcers wax philosophic that “that play never works, why do they even try it.” The truth is, it sometimes did work (about 1% of the time), however 99.9% of the time, it was a ploy to see if the offense would tip their hand in a key game situation (forecast of a bunt, misstep by guy on first tipping an SB or H&R attempt, etc.). Even that usually didn’t work, but it was no harm, no foul and just a waste of time.
2) Each game will end an average of 12 – 17 seconds more quickly than previous. I estimate that play is run once every 5 games and usually kills about a minute of clock. Although sometimes it’s run 3 times in a row (nobody would expect the third straight one right…stay tuned). But seriously, as evidenced by the “boos” that cascade every time it’s ran (by the visitors, of course) fans enjoy that play almost as much as erratic infield fly rule calls that shouldn’t have been.
3) It’s actually in the spirit of the rule. The balk rule is intended to prevent the pitcher from intentionally deceiving either the runner or batter, and that is exactly what happens here.
It should be noted that this is not final yet. MLB is hoping to get Players Association concurrence, if they do not get it, they have the right to enact unilaterally, however they may not want to play that trump card in lieu of other ongoing future concessions.
My next rule change would be to not let the lefty do a “Pettitte” and hang their knee out as if to pitch, then go to first (usually barely stepping loosely in that direction). If you kick the leg up, that’s intending to pitch.
I leave you with an example of when it actually did work, just to keep it fair and balanced. On the third try…
– Dave (@lhd_on_sports)
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