Bock’s Score: Baseball Heresy

Scott W. Grau/Icon Sportswire

The plot to turn baseball into a carnival sideshow continues to pick up momentum thanks to the proprietors of the game, who, instead of protecting and nurturing it, choose to turn it into a mad scientist’s laboratory.

Today’s example focuses on the Pioneer League, a rather obscure collection of low minor league teams playing in the Rocky Mountain region. The league, like the rest of minor league baseball, was shut down last season because of COVID-19 and welcomed back this season by Major League Baseball with the designation “Partner League.’’ That apparently means the league become a laboratory for strange ideas that can be impose on the game at the whim of the analytic and data analysis crowd.

Sometimes, though, Partner Leagues doesn’t ask permission to do something different. There is for example, the Pioneer solution to baseball’s extra inning dilemma. Instead of the dandy free runner on second base to start each extra inning, a scheme that had old school “fuddie-duddies” so upset, the Pioneer answer to the dilemma is even more bizarre.

If a Pioneer League game is tied after nine innings, they will suspend the silly old rules of baseball and decide the issue with a home run derby. One player from each team gets five pitches. Most homers wins the game. Still tied? Two more hitters get their swings.

The Pioneer people claim they came up with this solution, called the “Knock Out rule,” all by themselves, without consulting their Major League partners. And they are adding a few other wrinkles to massage the game that operated so well for so long under those old fashioned rules.

Batters now will be allowed to appeal to base umpires on checked swing calls. That option used to belong to the home plate umpire. Not in the Pioneer League’s version of New Age Baseball.

Say hello to the new pinch hitter and designated pinch runner rule. Just because a player gets pinch hit or pinch run for in the Pioneer League, does not mean he’s out of the game. He’s free to return to his defensive position in the next inning. The pinch hitter or runner, however, is done for the day.

Splendid.

They are turning the game into a weird version of football, basketball or hockey which routinely operates with free substitutions. Those are all nice sports, but they are not baseball and slowly but surely baseball is being changed into some hybrid activity, thanks to the mad scientists who have taken over the sport.

About the Author

Hal Bock

Hal Bock covered sports for 40 years at The Associated Press including 30 World Series, 30 Super Bowls and 11 Olympics. He is the author of 14 books including most recently The Last Chicago Cubs Dynasty and Banned Baseball's Blacklist of All-Stars and Also-Rans. He has written scores of magazine articles and served as Journalist In Residence at Long Island University's Brooklyn campus where he also served on the selection committee for the George Polk Awards.

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