I am too angry for words. Wherein Fr. Z… grrrrrr

I am so angry I could spit.

There are already so many problems with modern baseball… now this.

Is the Novus Ordo age of baseball upon us?

From Hot Air:

Another bad idea from MLB: Intentional walks will now be automatic

Is there no non-problem Commissioner Rob Manfred won’t try to solve?

As part of its initiative to improve pace-of-game play, Major League Baseball has approved a change to the intentional walk rule, going from the traditional four-pitch walk to a dugout signal, it was announced Wednesday…

Getting rid of the old-fashioned intentional walk would eliminate about a minute of dead time per walk. In an age in which intentional walks actually have been declining — there were just 932 all last season (or one every 2.6 games) — that time savings would be minimal. But MLB saw the practice of lobbing four meaningless pitches as antiquated.  [STUPID STUPID STUPID!  Sometimes something doesn’t go as expected!]

This is less egregious than the other proposed rule change, to begin each extra inning with a runner on second, [LOL] but they’re both part of a trend of MLB trying to automate facets of the game that traditionally have depended, and should depend, on skill. Intentional walks are nearly automatic as is — but not entirely, as the lowlight reel below will remind you. (Once every decade or two, a hitter even manages to put a pitch in play during an intentional walk.) Eliminating a tiny amount of risk that requires a tiny amount of skill in the name of speeding up the game seems reasonable in theory, but how much speedier would the game actually be?

By one estimate, replacing an intentional walk with a dugout signal would make the average game … 35 seconds shorter. Another estimate says it’s more like 14 seconds. If you prefer to think of it in terms of pitch count, it would save an average of 1.54 pitches per contest. In exchange for that, you’d lose the fun of watching the visiting team’s pitcher booed lustily for 30 seconds while he walks the home team’s slugger and you’d lose the minor suspense involved in seeing if he accidentally throws the ball away. Not a major sacrifice for a fan, but why is a sacrifice required at all?

This rule change is a special affront to a conservative temperament, I think, because it shows signs of poor policy thinking of the “change for change’s sake” variety. In isolation it might be tolerable; paired with the reform to extra innings, it feels like a slippery slope in which elements of the game that depend on execution — like, say, putting a man in scoring position — will be replaced by gimmicks meant to either save time or grab eyeballs.


ESPN too.

Tinker tinker tinker.  Tinkeritis.  The Good Idea Fairies who plague all organizations should be shot on sight.

Wussify the game some more.

There are a lot of other ways to speed up the game. One of them would be to cut down the time batters step out – after every pitch – and adjust and readjust and adjust again. After every … blessed pitch.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. crownvic says:

    Can’t wait to read your blog the day the National League gets the Designated Hitter…

  2. VexillaRegis says:

    I thought the Pope or some politician had come up with a new bad idea! What a relief it was about baseball – I can now have my espresso in peace :-).

  3. cwillia1 says:

    I agree 100%. The game needs to be speeded up. From about 3 hrs on average to 2.5 hrs. And the way to do it is to keep batters in the box and to speed up pitchers. When I was an active fan, I gradually switched to minor league baseball for several reasons – cheaper hotdogs, easier parking and, most of all, faster games.

  4. stuart reiss says:

    Baseball is the Novus ordo to the game what cricket is the usus antquior

  5. DMorgan says:

    I agree Father.

  6. Filipino Catholic says:

    If it’s not broken, don’t fix it. The NBA tried this by changing the design of the basketball, Coca-Cola had their infamous New Coke fiasco, and in both cases the attempt at improvement backfired spectacularly.

  7. WVC says:

    crownvic – you shouldn’t take joy at another’s misfortune!

    And I second the motion for minor league baseball, although I could do without the stupid, blaring “entrance” music they play at all games (major or minor) when the batter comes to the plate. This is baseball, not professional wrestling.

    Fr. Z hits it on the head, though – this is part of the “progress means never-ending change for change’s sake” mentality – it’s a horrible, evil, diseased way of thinking that can never, ever be satisfied or know peace. It’s why folks have to buy a new iPhone every year, regardless. Why movies have to be constantly remade. Why a new fad diet shows up every year. That it’s even found its way to baseball . . . that’s a bad sign.

  8. Matt Robare says:

    Don’t worry, the Society of Commissioner Bartlett Giamatti, will preserve the Right Way to play the game under Major League Baseball comes to its senses. We’re clearly in an emergency situation here.

  9. Ellen says:

    Players need to go back to the old uniforms. Knickers and not trousers. It just doesn’t look right. I can’t imagine Babe Ruth in trousers.
    I had the great pleasure of seeing some of the greats play baseball back when I was a kid, most notably Willie Mays. The game was a joy and I loved it. Then I went a couple of years ago and between the loud music and flashing lights I was overwhelmed. I’ve never been back.

  10. LarryW2LJ says:

    If you watch baseball on a continual basis, it’s amazing to see how many Big League pitchers have difficulty issuing an intentional base on balls. The chance for a wild pitch goes up exponentially in some cases. Changing this rule will not effectively speed up the game; but it will protect some pitchers. Smells like a red herring, to me.

  11. LarryW2LJ says:

    I should have said “The chance for a wild pitch or a passed ball goes up exponentially in some cases.”

  12. Cafea Fruor says:

    I don’t understand the push to speed the game up. The slower pace of the game is precisely one of the reasons why I, and so many others, like baseball.

  13. GrumpyYoungMan says:

    I saw this was under consideration last week, and couldn’t believe it was even being considered. Then, yesterday, I heard it was approved. Awful. Just awful.

    Why the constant tinkering?

  14. JabbaPapa says:

    So they want to abolish a basic principle of the game ? LOL

    Was this devised by the Conference of Jesuit Baseballers ?

    Whatever this change intends, it’s simply not cricket.

  15. Semper Gumby says:

    Stuart Reiss: Ah, a spat between the Atlantic Alliance. Baseball is the Novus Ordo compared to cricket? We might have to take that Churchill bust back out of the Oval Office again. Oh well, God Save the Queen.

  16. Atra Dicenda, Rubra Agenda says:

    Seems like Eye of the Tiber could do something really funny with this.

  17. MarylandBill says:

    Well, game times are getting up there.. but I agree keeping players in the batters box and limiting the time between pitches is the way to do it, not fiddling with one minor part of the game.

  18. joey_in_NC says:

    I’m sure Jon Lester loves this rule. Now, only if Jon can lobby for a rule that limits the size of lead offs from first base so that pitchers won’t have to attempt pick off throws. That should save time, right?

  19. dahveed says:

    Have you ever checked out any of the vintage baseball leagues? They’re pretty neat. Definitely manly.

  20. Irene says:

    Is nothing sacred anymore?

  21. happyCatholic says:

    Well, if the goal is to speed up the game, why doesn’t every player then signal what his play is going to be without, of course, actually having to do it (hey, that way women can now play!) The pitcher can signal he was going to throw a fast ball, the batter can signal he was going to hit a home run, etc. Should be very fast, clean, neat, and blooper-free!

  22. Kathleen10 says:

    It’s all part of the same disease, fear of not filling every single moment with noise or activity, speeding things up. It is similar to the NO Mass because it’s really the same experience there, you must sing, stand up, speak, shake hands, or laugh, every second, because people simply must be active at every moment. The sports world has asked the 20-somethings what they hate about baseball, and, naturally the answer of the frenetic young people is they despise the quiet, the momentary pause in things, it doesn’t hold their tiny attention spans. The sports world is almost altogether nuts these days. Don’t get me started on the NFL or ESPN.
    I would say go to a high school game, but it’s going on there. If there is any pause, here comes the blaring music, lest you have a moment to hear a bird in the trees.
    Like everything else, if baseball fans would be heard on this the Commissioner would rethink, but, silence means everyone likes it.

  23. jjbulano says:

    Yogi Bera is rolling over in his grave!! He refused to be intentionally walked and he got quite a few hits swinging away on pitch-outs. And there has never been anything preventing a manager from taking the intentional walk off if something changed on the field. MLB is taking away the manager’s ability to make judgment calls as dynamics on the field change. They changed the rule about batters stepping out of the box to force a time out to speed up the game, but it is rarely enforced, so do they honestly think that eliminating throwing 4 pitches is going to speed it up? Why doesn’t MLB enforce the rules they have insteading of making up more, inane ones?

    I bet we see a lot more “unintentional” intentional walks! And to the people who think the pace is too slow — you are missing a lot when you are more worried about how long the game is running instead of enjoying the nuances and finesse of play. I was sitting in the stands one night when the Rockies successfully executed the suicide squeeze against the Royals. Not a single person around me knew what had happened, but to me, it was all in slow motion. That’s the beauty of the game — home runs are nice, but small ball that shows skill, strategy and overall awareness of what is happening on the field — that’s what baseball is about. At least for me.

  24. marianna331 says:

    So many good comments , it is taking the sting out of one more item of bad news for us traditionalists.
    Matt, is there really such a commission, joey in NC, thank you for making me laugh.
    Yes this is fruit from the same tree that has called for a reexamination of Liturgicum Authenticum. Some people can’t stand the idea that they are not the center of the universe and that tradition matters.

    All that said, I once read a statistic that in the average game of professional football ( American football that is) the ball is in play for only 11 minutes……….

  25. Pigeon says:

    A more meaningful action would be to get rid of one commercial per commercial break….

    … But i won’t hold my breath for that one.

  26. acardnal says:

    The video clip proves why this rule change should NOT happen. Humans make mistakes.

  27. Semper Gumby says:

    Yes, this infernal tinkering must cease. Filipino Catholic and Matt Robare: I agree.

    I will go in to the dugout of God.
    To baseball, the joy of my youth.

    Commissioner of Baseball, we beseech thee, have mercy on your fans. Save us from infernal tinkering, bring us to the game everlasting.

    Epistle: from the Book of Yogi Berra:
    “He hits from both sides of the plate, he’s amphibious.”

    Gradual: from the Book of Yogi Berra:
    “Even Napoleon had his Watergate.”

    Gospel: from the Book of Yogi Berra:
    “It’s not the heat, it’s the humility.”

    Last Gospel: In the beginning God said: Play ball!


    True story. Yogi Berra served in the Navy in WWII. On D-Day he was off the coast of Normandy as a machine-gunner on a rocket boat supporting the troops on the beach. A plane came in low under the clouds and Yogi and several others opened fire. Turns out it was an Allied aircraft. Yogi said later “Boy, was that pilot mad when we fished him out of the water.”

  28. This and the 2nd base runner in extra innings are ridiculous rules that will hopefully be seen for the stupidity they are before the season is out. If they really want to speed up the game, require relief pitchers to greatly speed up their pitches. Most starting pitchers are good at keeping the game moving, but there are a number of relief pitchers who take a long time between pitches. There’s no need for these pitchers to walk around the mound, adjust every item of uniform (especially the hat!), stretch his arms, stare at the catcher (why do they seem to have a harder time than the starters seeing the signals?), do their yoga breathing, and finally set and throw.

    MLB could cut half an hour off some games by just requiring them to throw within 15 seconds of the previous pitch. Perhaps they could change this stupid intentional walk rule into a penalty for not keeping timing between pitches: don’t throw within 15 seconds, you walk the batter.

  29. PTK_70 says:

    Ellen says, “Then I went a couple of years ago and between the loud music and flashing lights I was overwhelmed. I’ve never been back.”

    As a fan in the bleachers, THIS is what has turned the experience upside-down. Maybe at Wrigley they still play background organ music between innings at a sound level you can talk over. Are there any other MLB ballparks where that is the norm? MiLB ballparks?

    (As for automatic intentional passes, I played in an adult recreational league wherein the signal was given and the batter took his base. It was still baseball.)

  30. Christopher Meier says:

    “don’t throw within 15 seconds, you walk the batter.”

    This doesn’t seem like a bad concept, we’re used to play clocks in football and shot clocks in basketball. 15 seconds after the pitcher gets the ball back, red lights go off. I don’t think I’d walk the batter, but I would chalk up an automatic ball. If it’s Ball 4, then it’s a walk.

  31. priest up north says:

    If Rob Manfred and co. are Catholic, they must sit in the back pews….(Mass should not take more than ” ___” amount of time…) Totally stupid.

  32. LarryW2LJ says:

    The other comment that I would like to make is that for what it costs to actually go to a MLB game these days – you’re trying to give me less? I want every blessed second of my money’s worth, thank you!

  33. frjim4321 says:

    Does anyone know what George Will has to say?

    This is one area in which he seems to have competence.

  34. ChgoCatholic says:

    As a native fan of that wonderful and now winning team at a certain Field called Wrigley…part of the charm is the game unfolding naturally. I guarantee these changes are to appease television viewership and the networks that show the games!

  35. un-ionized says:

    This doesn’t bother me as much as making changes like raising or lowering the pitcher’s mound.

  36. Henry Edwards says:

    “This [baseball] is one [the only?] area in which he [George Will] seems to have competence.”

    Once again, Fr. Jim, we appear to find ourselves in notably harmonious agreement.

  37. Semper Gumby says:

    frjim4321: George Will usually writes a baseball article or two in March/April.

    ChgoCatholic: If the Commissioner ever replaces the 7th-inning stretch with a half-time show I will go into schism with MLB. My rogue splinter group will be the Society of Harry Caray.

  38. Giuseppe says:

    Whenever a batter leaves the batter’s box, charge him a strike.
    That will keep him in and keep the game moving.

  39. frjim4321 says:

    “Once again, Fr. Jim, we appear to find ourselves in notably harmonious agreement.”


    I heard him have a discussion with someone who argued that baseball was a “slow” game. Will made it pretty clear that if you know what’s going on, and you know where to look, it’s really fast and there is a lot of drama. I tend to agree with him.

    He also waxes quite eloquently about the exquisite symmetry and fine balance of the game and its rules. I’d only be able to guess, but I’d bet he doesn’t like the change.

  40. slainewe says:

    Not just baseball: the PGA has waived the one-shot penalty for the accidental movement of the ball on the putting green. No longer any need for players to control their emotions to an heroic degree on the putting green. It’s too HARRRD!

  41. ml1948 says:

    Give umpires the mandate to keep batters in the box and force pitchers to pitch the ball in a reasonable amount of time. Put a clock on it, if necessary: When the home plate ump indicates “play” the clock starts – say 25 seconds. If the batter is not in the box 5 (or 10) seconds before time is up, call a strike. If the pitcher doesn’t pitch before time runs out, call a ball.

  42. frjim4321 says:

    “Give umpires the mandate…” ml1948

    Frankly, umpires are probably obsolete.

    Digital optical machines could do the job faster and much more accurately. And it would save a lot of money. We already use hi-tech digital devices for sport, such as for timing swimming, with the starting horn and the touch pads.

    The technology has developed to the point at which umpires (at least at the plate) could be easily replaced.

  43. Mike says:

    This is an area where only Washington can help.

    Despite their stumbling inability to get past the first round of the post-season, the Nationals have a relationship with über-agent Scott Boras unparalled by any other team in the game. If Washington GM Mike Rizzo wants a rule change to happen, and can get Boras to convince his high-income clients—and, through them, the players’ union—that it is good, it will happen.

    Waiting around for any commissioner to do anything for the good of the game will most likely get you sent to the showers in the first inning with the bases loaded and nobody out.

  44. Mario Bird says:

    Here is a good point by an Ohio sportswriter, Ryan Lewis:

    “Eliminating intentional walks, meaning pitchers won’t just throw four pitches any more, is a cosmetic idea. Intentional walks are rare and don’t take up much time to begin with. The idea here is to eliminate dead air, but if a hitter is being intentionally walked, it’s often to set up one of the game’s key moments. The tension is normally rising as the four balls are being tossed.”

    The idea of tension implies a natural flow to the game (and to life!) — as opposed to the artifice imposed upon it by Sportscenter. Eliminating the intentional walk is like eliminating the glares and dialogue between Ben-Hur and Masala, or cutting from the Sheik’s wager right to the horses racing. It reduces drama to data, and – in this baseball fan’s opinion – betokens a profound ignorance of what it means to be human.

  45. SundaySilence says:

    As a long-suffering Cubs fan who waited since 1969 to see my Cubbies win the World Series, I sincerely cannot understand why the sudden need to shorten each game by a few minutes. Then again, I am still wrapping my head around the whole concept of lights at Wrigley Field.

  46. pac76 says:

    I agree that this is another symptom of the “war on silence.” This from the league that recently instituted INSTANT REPLAY. The most recent MLB game I attended, the stadium felt the need to blare a “totally sweet electric guitar riff” after the home team made a defensive out. Some committee must have done a study showing that some focus group can’t go five minutes without texting so the game must therefore be sped up.

    I guess this isn’t surprising from the group that put astroturf into cookie cutter ballparks, but the proposed extra innings lead runner thing is so bad that I can’t believe anyone would consider it. God help us if the powers that be figure out that adding the DH to the NL will help insure a big-money (aka major TV market) team will win more often in the post season.

  47. Absit invidia says:

    The walk is based on the quality and placement of the pitcher’s throw. Period. This attempt by jet setting trendies of “modernizing” of all things is just juvenile. People aren’t that anxious to get the game over with. they attend with their loved ones to spend time with them and enjoy their company and talk while the game progresses. there is no need to speed it up. Seriously, society; slow down a little, please.

  48. graytown says:

    Stats are everything in baseball.
    What about pitch count ?
    A batter gets walked with zero pitches ?
    What’s the stat going to be called for “automatic placement at second base” ?

    As soon as they brought in cameras to review plays – they entered the slippery slope.

  49. Maynardus says:

    Never in the history of this blog have I found myself so completely in agreement with the sentiments expressed th the combox! If it’s time you’re guarding so jealously, why not ditch the canned “walk-up” music which has become ubiquitous? Not only does it waste time and distract from the game, but 90% of it is obnoxious! A few years ago the minors were blessedly free if this plague, but like the DH it has spread its malevolent tentacles throughout the game – our local summer (college) league team started iy last year and I have even heard of youth leagues in affluent towns that have adopted it.

    The commish ought to binge-watch every pre-1980 game he can find on e.g. YouTube and take some notes!

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