The drugs are out of my system. My head is clear. It’s a beautiful day. Baseball spring training is underway.
Warning: This post will not contain imagery of faraway lands.
This post is about baseball.
A 150-year-old game in the modern sense, its true origins can trigger debate and controversy.
Wherever it started, its rules have had many big changes over the years. For example, did you know that in 1887 they went with four called strikes instead of three? In 1975 the baseball was permitted to be covered in cowhide because they were running out of horses.
Interesting stuff. Great for Jeopardy tryouts or working at the Baseball Hall of Fame.
This post is about a rule we should ban that was changed prior to the 2017 season. This instantiation of this rule was met with mixed feelings. You either loved it or you hated it.
This rule is like the chalk line drawn from the plate, through first base, and into the outfield: If you’re on one side of the line, you’re fair and if you’re on the other you’re foul.
And if you like rule 9.14 a), also known as the No-Pitch Intentional Walk Rule, you are foul in my book. This rule states:
The official scorer shall score an intentional base on balls
when a batter is awarded first base because the defensive
team’s manager informs the umpire of the team’s intention to
walk the batter.
If you’re not a baseball fan, don’t worry. Many of the terms you will hear in this article can be used in business meetings too. Or in day-to-day parlance. You can tell your buddy he “really struck out” trying to get that girl’s phone number. In a business meeting you might say, “Johnson, you really hit that idea out of the park!”
So stick with me. If you learn nothing about baseball, you will at least have a few interchangeably useful idioms. What is a base on balls? It’s a walk. What is a walk? It occurs when the pitcher throws four balls that are not in the “strike zone” As his punishment, the batter gets to go to first base. Why would he want to go there? Because then he can get to second base (What’s second base? You know what second base. It’s what you get when you hit a double entendre). If he’s really lucky he’ll get to third (wink, wink).
So a base on balls gets you to first base if the pitcher doesn’t throw strikes. Good. Great. Wonderful. Now, what is an intentional base on balls? That’s when the pitcher throws four pitches out of the strike zone intentionally in order to put the batter on first base. The reasons why he would do that are beyond the scope of this article, but let’s just say it is a chess move that makes sense to do in certain situations.
So, how did they accomplish an intentional walk in the “good old days”? The pitcher would signal the catcher to step out from behind the plate. That way he could lob him four balls way outside the strike zone. The batter would walk to first and the game would go on.
But every once in a while things would get interesting. Here are some examples.
The batter could step in and swing at the ball:
The pitch could go wild, and a runner could score:
Tony Pena liked to pull this trick a lot. The batter would have two strikes, and the pitcher would start an intentional walk. With the batter relaxed, Pena would hop back down and catch the third strike:
Okay, so that’s the old way. Cool. What happens now with the new rule?
The manager in the dugout makes a weird Illuminati hand-signal at the umpire and the batter magically walks to first base without any pitches being thrown:
No no no. F this. No way Jose.
The balls must be thrown! Why, why, why would we want this? The interesting scenarios I just showed you cannot happen if no balls are thrown!
It’s because of time folks. It’s supposed to speed everything up. It’s one of many incremental tweaks being made to speed up these games.
You see, baseball watching is on the decline, according to the MLB. The games are just too long and boring for the average sheep. So like a great surgeon, the MLB is going to carve away the tumours of time-wasting.
Baseball is called America’s pastime for a reason. It’s something to sit back and enjoy watching. It’s not meant to be rushed.
The MLB better hope this Prime Dictator doesn’t get elected in the 2024 U.S.A. Pepsi/FaceBook elections, sponsored by Red Bull. There will be some rule changes.
So why has the “pace of game” become such a problem that the MLB had to make a special committee to deal with it? Here are two totally random reasons from my big beautiful sheep brain:
- Pitching changes are time-consuming. Starting pitchers used to be tough as nails. Dave Steib was like Chuck Norris. He would finish up chopping a cord of wood, head into the SkyDome, pitch a no-hitter, drink a case of beer, grab a shower, and call it a day. Nowadays as soon as a pitcher gets close to a hundred pitches, they pull him out and spend the rest of the game switching between lefty and righty pitchers.
- Cellphones. That’s right fellow sheep of the earth. It wouldn’t be a post on Not Sheep Minded if I didn’t blame all the world’s problems on so-called “smartphones”. Screens, tablets, whatever you want to call them. These things are wrecking our attention span. In the old days, you could plop a kid down in front of the TV for a baseball game without complaint. They would watch it in its entirety if it meant they could stay up fifteen minutes past their bedtime. Now, even if you take a kid to a game, they’re asking the beer vendor what the wifi-password for the stadium is.
Baseball is chess. It’s strategic and the slow pace is part of that. It’s part of the fun. Sure, we can whittle it down to something that no longer resembles baseball. The game will fly right by, but the essence of it will be gone. It’d be like taking the works of Shakespeare and re-writing them with only emoji characters. It’d be like taking a drip coffee machine and turning it into a Keurig. It’d be like Obama dictating an eloquent speech to Trump while he transcribes it with crayons in his own words.
This year I will, as I have for the past several years, attend the Toronto Blue Jays home opener at the SkyDome (Prime Dictator will make referring to that venue as “The Rogers Centre” punishable by leaf rake).
I hope it will be a nice day. I hope the Jays will beat the Tigers. But most of all I pray that neither team initiates an intentional walk, for the fine fans of Toronto bought their tickets so they could relax, not listen to a lunatic rant and rave about a rule that was changed two years ago.