The Sassy Sandpiper: Don’t Even Bother with the Bat
By M.R. Wilson, Columnist, TB Reporter
Dropping the old-school intentional walk knocks down the stature of baseball.
Beginning this season, a flick of a signal from the dugout and the batter lopes to first base. No need for four silly pitches laughably beyond the strike zone.
Yeah, I hear you. “Say it ain’t so!” But it is so, and all to rev up the pace of the average three-hour baseball game, which is admirable, but really…
ESPN.com reported the change Feb. 22, 2017. The Baseball Gods also decided to raise the bottom of the strike zone to the top of the hitter’s knees, very good news for tall players.
These changes may speed up the game, but there are lots of other ways to do it. Curtail visits to the mound by umpires, pitchers, managers, and catchers. Who knows what they’re really talking about, anyway? Batters could stop messing around so much with their helmets, batting gloves, pounding clay from their cleats, adjusting their undergarments. Plllease! Pitchers have the most influence, I’d think. Just throw the ball already; no shaking off the catcher’s signal four or five times; a limit on throws to first base to “keep the runner close.” Let him try to steal second, for heaven’s sake. That will shake things up.
Baseball is a metaphor for American life, so why don’t we all just decide on an “automatic intentional walk” signal when we want to move a tiresome situation along? At the grocery store check-out, for instance. The customer ahead of you is fumbling endlessly with coupons, digging for exact change in a flea-bitten coin purse, trying yet another credit card after three have been declined. Assume your Umpire Stance and signal. Maybe the classic “time-out” palm-patting of one vertically held hand would do. Or pump your arms as if taking a brisk WALK.
But goodness, doesn’t dispensing with those four throws and catches for an intentional walk knock down the stature of baseball a peg or two? It’s trashing tradition, another downgrade, another thread pulled from the rich tapestry baseball has wrapped around the American Way. Think how much of our personal pep talk involves phrases like “keep your eye on the ball,” “cover all the bases,” and “that’s a whole new ballgame.” Nothing inspiring in the automatic intentional walk.
How will this newfangled play look? I don’t want to imagine it. Puts me right off my Cracker Jacks.
Maybe I’m just getting stodgy. Will the pitchless walk invigorate the pace, rivet our interest, make games hyper-exciting and get us out of the park (or off the couch) sooner? We shall see.
The Tampa Bay Rays Opening Day is April 2 at 1:10 p.m. against the Yankees.
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