If baseball is to honor the inevitable, then it must not stop at the re-gifted, hassle-free, no-risk intentional walk.
The Braves, for one, can go home now. And take the Twins with them.
If fate has spoken (and been waved toward first base), and 60 seconds are to be gained in a ballgame (or in less than half the ballgames, actually, on average), and pitchers are to be saved from momentary anxiety brought by the approaching yips, and we’re going to have a discussion about which parts of the game no longer need to be played, then why stop at the intentional walk? Indeed, why stop at maybe 60 seconds in maybe fewer than half the ballgames?
Let’s get busy.
Giancarlo Stanton is not required to run out a home run. Waste of time, pageantry and knee cartilage.
Oh-and-2 counts will automatically become 1-and-2 counts. Three-and-oh counts will proceed to 3-and-1. C’mon, they’re going there anyway.
That throw from the catcher to the pitcher? Put a bucket of balls behind the mound and let’s move this thing along.
No more mound visits just to talk. “Pitch better,” we get it. “Hard in, soft away,” like the last guy. And the guy before that.
Why must each infielder inspect the baseball after an out? Still round, yep. Whatta ya think, Clem? Yep, white too. You Billy?
Your new walk-up song is the organist playing “Charge!” or “Hava Nagila” or some such. Your personal playlist stays on your personal iPod cloaked in your Beats by Dre where it belongs.
You break your bat, you live with it. Trademark up, pally. Bats don’t grow on trees you know.
Hey, if your batting gloves can’t stay Velcroed while you’re taking ball one, the clubbies have plenty of duct tape.
The times of one reliever for one batter are over. You’re coming into a game, you’re staying a while. Better start practicing that changeup. Lookin’ at you, LOOGYs (Left One-Out Guy).
Also, relievers enter the game like Todd Coffey – hell-bent, body stuff flyin’, eyes waterin’, ground shakin’. Beat Coffey’s best time from bullpen to mound, the first hitter starts with an oh-one count.
The strike zone does not hang in a gallery with other strike zones while elbow-patched hipsters get drunk on white Zinfandel and eat dinner a toothpick at a time. What does this strike zone mean to you? Can you feel it in your soul? You sure it’s not upside down? The robots are coming, folks. Arm yourselves.
And don’t get us started on replay. If a guy 3,000 miles away has to toggle back and forth more than twice to see if some dude’s shoelace grazed third base, call stands. Lose a challenge, lose an out. And the other team gets it. That four-out ninth inning is gonna be a beast. Plate umpire gets an earpiece. Also, he gets a microphone so we can hear him humming along to “Meet the Mets.”
Seriously, we don’t have time for the intentional walk? It’s possible we’ve gotten to running downhill a little faster than our little legs can carry us. The game is the game, after all, and four pitches outside the zone is still a walk, still part of the execution of a game and not part of some hustle-in, hustle-out directive to get the kiddies to bed on time.
Play the game. It’s not supposed to be easy or automatic unless the ballplayer himself makes it easy and automatic.
So, at Dodger Stadium on Monday night, I asked three men – a manager who used to be a pitcher, a manager who used to be an outfielder, and a pitcher – about the intentional walk, and the notion four wide ones could become none, and of the three, 2 ½ disagreed with me.
“I see both sides of it,” Dodgers pitcher Brett Anderson said.
“There might be a ‘thing,’ ” he said, meaning the yips, “and he can’t do it.”
Isn’t that a reason, then, to require the throws?
“In theory it’s a pretty good idea,” he said. “I guess I’m more toward just throw the pitches. Some people do have a tough time doing it.”
Bryan Price almost certainly had bigger things to think about, given the condition of his Reds. Before he was a manager, and before he was one of the well regarded pitching coaches in the game, he was a minor-league pitcher. Over nearly 500 innings, he intentionally walked 12 batters.
Throw the pitches or move along?
“I think the simple answer to that is we can move along,” he said.
There isn’t enough failure, he said, to require – or merit – four non-competitive pitches.
“I know it happened in the Bad News Bears in 1976,” he said with eerie precision. “I think Kelly Leak tripled.”
Dave Roberts admitted he liked the notion, as a manager, of four fewer variables, those being four loopy, 60-foot throws pitchers hardly ever practice.
“I think for me I wouldn’t mind just going softball or Little League and putting them on first base,” he said. “I’m not too concerned about it. … I’d just rather put them on first.”
It seems Park Avenue is, at best, a long way from declaring intentional walks automatic. The competition committee, made up of baseball executives and chaired by Mets general manager Sandy Alderson, has raised the possibility. The playing rules committee, headed by Pirates president Frank Coonelly, hasn’t considered it and might never. But it’s out there, and maybe it’s possible one day. In the meantime, may we all enjoy the ceremony of a catcher being booed for standing up and sticking out his arm.
A WEEK BEHIND:
Manager Brad Ausmus, an erudite and rational man who has his hands full in Detroit, will always have his hoodie moment. If you missed it, and there’s no way you did, Ausmus on May 16 stripped off his sweatshirt and laid it over home plate in the way a coroner would just after recording time of death, only with a lot more swearing.
Just the day before, the Tigers were 15-21 and 8 ½ games behind the Chicago White Sox. Now they’ve won seven of their last eight, and the White Sox aren’t hitting, and the Tigers are four back, and the hoodie (and cap, which somehow got involved too) are being auctioned for charity. As of Wednesday morning, the bidding had reached nearly $5,000.
A WEEK AHEAD:
The Toronto Blue Jays have some baseball games coming up. Seeing as “We the North” does not yet reflect the AL East standings, 12 games in 13 days against the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox (with six more against the Baltimore Orioles by mid-June) suggest a critical period.
It’s the offense – offence – mostly, and will continue to be as long as the batting averages with runners in scoring position look like this: Josh Donaldson .161, Edwin Encarnacion .170, Russell Martin .185, Troy Tulowitzki .195 and Kevin Pillar .200.
SAW IT COMING:
Buck Showalter: “I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many right-handed dominant lineups in the big leagues as this year, in the American League. That’s why the left-handed bats in free agency and the draft go so fast. Think about the lineups you’ve seen this year that have six or seven right-handed hitters against right-handed pitchers. That used to be unheard of. … We’ve faced Detroit, Minnesota, this team [Angels], two other teams [including Toronto] we’ve faced. I was talking to John Russell, who does the lineups with me, I’ve never seen it like this.”
Ergo, Chris Davis, a left-handed hitter with 171 home runs in 659 games as an Oriole, gets $161 million over seven years.
DIDN'T SEE IT COMING:
Four Pirates were hit by pitches that night (as were two Reds), and by the ninth inning, umpires were having no more of it. That’s when Ohlendorf got Freese. As the benches already had been warned, Ohlendorf was ejected, along with Reds manager Bryan Price. Ohlendorf received a three-game suspension, which he appealed. Price served his automatic one-game suspension two days later. He also paid a fine, which usually run in the $500 to $1,000 range.
Well, on Monday, following what apparently was a very effective appeal, Ohlendorf learned his three-game suspension had been overturned. The panel concluded he’d not intentionally thrown at Freese and therefore he’d serve no time. And Price?
Managers, who are not members of the players’ union, typically cannot appeal suspensions or fines. Price did his time and mailed in his check, only to learn not two weeks later the league no longer believed there’d been an infraction. There’s no getting that game back. Price does, however, expect to get that check back.
“It would only seem to be the right thing to do,” he said with a smile.
The league said Tuesday it would look into it.