2017 is a weird year, and it’s only February…by the end of it, we could live in a sports world where Gary Bettman, who must hear jeers of NHL fans in his sleep, could be the second-most liked commissioner in the four major sports.
Rob Manfred, the tenth Commissioner of Baseball, has continued his catering to the fan who can’t go 20 seconds without looking at his smartphone this week, as the traditional four pitch intentional walk is no more. Now for such a move, all that’s required is a signal from dugout to umpire.
In perspective, the move is not too egregious. Yes, we’ve had Miguel Cabrera and wild pitches turn would-be IBB’s into hits and runs, but those occurrences are like a win by the Atlanta Braves over the past few seasons….rare. You could almost argue sending the batter over automatically is logical. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll actually miss the traditional four pitches outside, if only because it’s messing with years of established tradition. In the end, the intentional walk is a mostly forgotten play, along the lines of a 3-yard again on 1st down in football.
Nonetheless, this sets off a horrifying precedent for the rest of baseball.
Manfred, his plans for baseball nefarious as they may be, did something smart when it came for his insistence to change the game up. He went after something oh so inconsequential. The intentional walk…something that doesn’t even technically show up in the box score, relegated to those stats below the main box…was his first target. Something that will take, at most probably, 45 seconds away from the game.
But Manfred and his minions have even bigger ideas in mind. Of note, extra innings would be tarnished by a proposed new deal that would be a runner on second base in the start of each extra frame. Other proposed rule changes, like pitch clockers, have already been seen at the lower levels of baseball, and even more can be on the way. By July, perhaps no one will even realize the intentional walk rule was changed, but that will just numb us to the more ludicrous ideas that the pace of play advocates have in mind. Manfred is dedicated to this ridiculous cause as well, publicly complaining about the lack of support his proposals have been getting from the players’ union, and threatening, in dictator-like fashion, to unilaterally enforce these changes without the union’s help come the 2018 season.
I, for one, have been very much against baseball’s proposed rule changes. The last 30 seconds of a basketball game alone seem to last an eternity, and football games take now take about four hours to finish. Yet God forbid, baseball, a game that requires thinking and patience, dares go past 2.5 hours, everyone loses their minds. When it comes to playoffs, MLB’s have provided some great excitement, the most recent World Series featuring a classic showdown between the Chicago Cubs and Cleveland Indians, the two franchises who had gone the longest without a championship, complete with a Game 7 that went into extras. Meanwhile, all but three of the NFL’s dozen playoff games were blowouts, and the NBA Finals are more or less preset for the next several seasons.
Doing away with the intentional walk is something seemingly irrelevant…but, it’s the perfect way to appear inconspicuous when you have a bigger agenda in mind. Baseball constantly calls it’s competition the other major sports, seemingly in a never ending war with football for America’s Pastime. But if this keeps up, the ones striking out…baseball’s new brass, those who keep using “pace of play” as an excuse to change things…will come from within, and they’ll have no one else to blame.