I’m a baseball purist as much as the next guy. I hate the DH. I miss “small-ball”. But I also love to see the pot get stirred and I’ve started to embrace the flair that has become part of the game lately. I enjoy the bat flips – if the situation calls for it – and fist pumps; love to see the emotional side of the game. Controlled emotion or not, it is entertaining, and isn’t that what this is all about?
I’ve had a few days now to digest the new intentional walk rule, and we’re talking about the intentional walk, not pitching around a batter or the unintentional-intentional walk. What you keep hearing is the “speed up the game” argument. A little bit here, a little bit there and we shave a few minutes off game times. I get that, but don’t be fooled. This rule change is more about getting rid of a boring aspect of the game today. My question is how will this affect the game on the field?
The one heard most – strange things have happened during those four lobbed pitches, you never know – is a good point. We’d miss out on some memorable moments, but be honest with yourself, MOST of the time (and by that I mean 16 documented instances in which players have swung at an intentional walk pitch in the history of Major League Baseball) nothing is happening, and you’re not paying attention during those four pitches anyway! Listen; there are a ton of great moments during each baseball game, tossing four pitches to the catcher who looks like he’s directing traffic behind the plate should not be something we’re interested in. If you are really paying attention you’re probably looking in foul territory or over the outfield walls while those four pitches are rainbowed to the plate to see if anyone is warming up.
That’s another argument I’ve heard against the new rule, player safety, that those four pitches give a pitcher time to throw a handful more pitches in the bullpen before they are called upon to take the mound and their allotted eight warm-up pitches. That’s it. I’m not even sure how this is really an issue anyway. Managers are paid to anticipate and have their players ready, and they have not taken away mound visits or other stall tactics. Heck, MLB isn’t even telling teams they HAVE to give the batter first base from the dugout, it’s an option. You can still choose to pitch around a hitter (the unintentional-intentional walk), and frankly, if you want your catcher to stand up behind the plate and throw four balls away, you still can!
So why the outcry over the new intentional walk rule!? This isn’t about speeding up the game, it’s about removing a needless aspect of the game. If you’re really concerned about speeding up the game let’s get rid of the designated hitter or cut down on the time between half-innings. But we all know the players and owners won’t be having that anytime soon. After all, this is a business and there’s money to be made, and while I wouldn’t say this new rule makes baseball more exciting to watch, it certainly makes it a little less boring, and isn’t that at least sort of a good thing?