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A balk rule change everyone should love

  • David Whitlock

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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About The Author

David Whitlock

David Whitlock - manager

David (a.k.a. Longhorndave or lhd_on_sports) joined the staff late in the 2012 season and moved to Site Manager in early 2013. A lifelong Houston Astros fan (and mini-season ticket holder for 9 years) he attends 20+ games per year. A statistics freak, David still keeps score the "old fashioned way" on occasion (and has kept manual score of World Series games since 1986 and retains the sheets). He was a featured guest weekly on the Phil Naessens Show. He is also a Texas Longhorns alumnus and huge football and baseball fan of his alma mater. When he isn't watching or writing about baseball, he works as a contractor at NASA Johnson Space Center. He lives by the mantra "a bad day at the ballpark is better than a good day anywhere else."

6 Responses to A balk rule change everyone should love

  • It’s about time, left handers have never been able to fake to first and throw to third. Never made any sense.

    • The whole “left handers cant do this” makes no sense to me. As mentioned in the article, a right handed pitcher has to take his foot off the rubber if he wants to go to first, while a left handed pitcher doesnt.

  • It’s an unnecessary rule change, kind of like the USGA and R&A banning anchored putting. What we really need is a rule that baseball players can’t wear their pants long, all bunched up around their ankles which looks like pajama pants. What a horrible look. Knee or mid-calf and show some sock like you’re supposed to.

  • David Whitlock

    Ha, I like the pajama pants rule. What happened to the “uniform” part of wearing a “uniform”?

  • How about this rule change? No fielding gloves the size of a small country.

  • David Whitlock

    How about pine tar that doesn’t go 3 inches past the label? Or elbow pads that rival what Stormtroopers wear?

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