Bock’s Score: Rules of Appeasement


Back in the middle of the 19th century, America’s handlebar moustache era, Doc Adams and his pals, some merchants, some businessmen, some other doctors, gathered to play this new fangled game called baseball.

The good doctor and his pals refined the game to the point where, when the calendar turned into the 20th century, they had put together a terrific sport.

It survived two World Wars, a fixed World Series, an economic depression and a few other ups and downs. It came through intact.

And then the business’s newest proprietors started monkeying with the sport that Adams and his pals perfected. That brings us to the hybrid product, a brand of baseball those folks might not recognize. The new bosses did some more tinkering last week, some of it good, some of it not so good.

Good was the decision to ban analytics-driven defensive shifts that often had the sport looking like a beer league softball game. Starting next season, teams must position two infielders on each side of second base and feet on the dirt part of the infield, please. No more second basemen stationed in short right field or third baseman standing all alone on the left side of the infield. Score that as a plus.

Then they got around to the pitchers. In a sport that prided itself as having no clock, they put a clock on the pitchers. They will have 15 seconds between pitches, graduated to 20 seconds with runners on base. Catchers must be in their crouch with nine seconds on the clock and batters must be ready with the countdown at eight seconds. Violations carry penalties, a ball called against the pitcher, a strike called against the hitter.

Oh, and by the way, pitchers are permitted two pickoff attempts. If the third one does not result in an out, a balk is called. Between that rule and the expansion in the size of bases from 15 inches to 18 inches, which results in shorter distance between the bases, baserunners should have a picnic. There will be more stolen bases, lots more stolen bases.

Left intact was the foolish ghost runner on second base to start every extra inning. That change is the most egregious of them all, wreaking havoc with the outcome of games.

Somewhere, Doc Adams and his pals are watching all this, shaking their heads and wondering what was so bad about the game they designed, one that lasted and flourished for 150 or so years, until the current crowd of deep thinkers arrived on the scene.



About the Author

Hal Bock

Hal Bock is a contributor with NY Sports Day. He has 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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