Will Rob Manfred Eliminate HR Trots Next?
In what is masked as an attempt to make games move at a faster pace, MLB with approval of MLBPA has agreed that pitchers will no longer have to throw four balls to issue a walk. Rather, now, the manager in the dugout will simply make a signal, and the batter at the plate will take first base.
While the rule seems benign, it does go against one of the basic tenents of what baseball great. It it the idea that at any moment, no matter how seemingly insignificant it is, you can see something special, something bizarre, or something you have never seen before:
As you can see, you never now what is going to happen. Except now, you do. Each one of those players will automatically be awarded first taking away the potential that something will happen. Baseball is doing this despite the fact that your average intentional walk lasts less than a minute. Baseball is doing this despite teams not issuing many intentional walks.
As reported by Newsday, there were only 932 intentional walks last year. Considering there are 2,430 games in a baseball season, baseball is looking for a resolution for something that happens less than once per game. It happens less than every other game. In essence, baseball, issued a rule change that eliminates the possibility of anything happening on a play that doesn’t even happen every game. This is like the NFL issuing a rule change with regards to the kick-off after a safety, the NBA issuing a rule change on what to do when a ball gets stuck between the backboard and the rim, or the NHL changing what type of shots are permitted on an in-game penalty shot.
Essentially, it is a rule change that affects something that rarely happens. It is a rule change that will have little to no impact on the casual fan. It will have no impact on fans that dislike the sport. More importantly, it only serves to anger your most ardent fans. At the end of the day, you have to ask why this was done?
For expediency? Pace of play? Make games go quicker?
In reality, it has no impact on that.
If Manfred really wants to make an impact might as well eliminate the home run trot. According to ESPN Home Run Tracker, there were 5,610 homers hit in the major leagues last year. This means that on average there are two home runs hit in an average baseball game. If you were to eliminate, the home run trot, you could really shave some time off of games, especially with some of the slower home run trots:
If everyone is being intellectually honest, removing the home run trot from games will make games move along much swifter. Given the fact that there are many more home runs hit than intentional walks, removing the home run trot would have a far greater impact than removing the intentional walk.
Also, if we’re being honest, no fan really cares about the home run trot except when they are looking for the celebration at home plate after a walk-off. However, that celebration could be heightened without the home run trot. Imagine a player hitting a home run and then immediately getting mobbed by his teammates on the field. It would look something like this:
Pure jubilation. Except, here is the strange thing. This celebration turned a home run that probably would have been a highlight of a six game series to an all time baseball moment. It was the Grand Slam Single. With that Robin Ventura will be forever immortalized because of Todd Pratt and the rest of the Mets tackling him on the field.
That’s what we lose when we eliminate throwing four balls or home run trots. You lose the impossible. You lose the potential or chance for the next great moment. Ultimately, this is why the rule is dumb. You’re changing what makes baseball great.
No, intentional walks do not make baseball great. Rather, it is that something amazing could happen during those four pitches. For most fans, you may not feel like you are missing anything when in reality you are missing everything.