Brotha on Baseball Jamal's Blog

What Are The Rules Exactly?

Baseball as an industry does a horrible job of getting out of its way. Over the last week, the foreign substances conversation is yet another example of the sport where the baseball industrial complex has allowed inattention to the changing landscape within the game to turn into a problem that can damage the core of the sport. A lot of baseball fans, myself included, want to see some parts of the game changed. I will say I am not dogmatic as to what baseball is, so I am quite receptive to changes to make the sport more palatable to the average consumer. The sport doesn’t need to market to hardcore baseball fans, as they are a baked-in audience. They threaten to turn the game off if things are not the same as they remember, but this is a lie. A person who made it to adulthood as a baseball fan is highly likely to remain one. If the game wants to regain its former status as the most popular sport in America, then it needs to lower the barriers to entry as it seeks new fans. With the being the last year of the current collective bargaining agreement, changes are certain to come. However, before a bunch of changes are made, I wonder how different the sport would look if the existing rules were actually enforced to the letter of the law.

As I stated in my last piece, there is already a rule which prohibits the use of foreign substances on the ball, so I won’t rehash what putting stuff on a baseball does for a pitcher. Pitchers putting stuff on a ball has been around for as long as baseball has been a sport. The gentlemen’s agreement between the managers not ask the umpires to check on each other’s guys has led to the problem we have now. The thought the managers would police it themselves was hopelessly naive. This is being treated like batting out of order whereby the opposing teams are responsible to bring it to the attention of the umpire in order for the rule to be enforced. Taking out of the hands of the manager makes the most sense as they are the arbiters on the field and are employed by Major League Baseball. Checking pitchers for foreign substances will become compulsory and fans won’t notice it once it does.

One of the lonstanding gripes with baseball is that it is too slow. Well, there is already a rule in place which addresses this very issue. Rule 5.04 (b)(1) states “The batter will take his position in the batter’s box promptly when it is his time to bat”. While I don’t mind a good bit of walkup music, it is clearly in violation of the stated rule. To continue, rule 5.04 (b)(4) is the batter’s box rule. It reads as follows ”The batter shall keep at least one foot in the batter’s box throughout the batter’s time at bat, unless one of the following exceptions applies, in which case the batter may leave the batter’s box but not the dirt area surrounding home plate: (i) The batter swings at a pitch; (ii) An attempted check swing is appealed to a base umpire; (iii) The batter is forced off balance or out of the batter’s box by a pitch; (iv) A member of either team requests and is granted “Time”; (v) A defensive player attempts a play on a runner at any base; (vi) The batter feints a bunt; (vii) A wild pitch or passed ball occurs; (viii) The pitcher leaves the dirt area of the pitching mound after receiving the ball; or (ix) The catcher leaves the catcher’s box to give defensive signals.” So to boil this down, batters stepping out of the box to fix their batting gloves for no reason is a violation of the rule.

Pitchers are also partially responsible to keep the game moving. Rule 5.07 (c) reads this way “When the bases are unoccupied, the pitcher shall deliver the ball to the batter within 12 seconds after he receives the ball. Each time the pitcher delays the game by violating this rule, the umpire shall call “Ball.” The 12-second timing starts when the pitcher is in possession of the ball and the batter is in the box, alert to the pitcher. The timing stops when the pitcher releases the ball. The intent of this rule is to avoid unnecessary delays. The umpire shall insist that the catcher return the ball promptly to the pitcher, and that the pitcher take his position on the rubber promptly. Obvious delay by the pitcher should instantly be penalized by the umpire.”. So in other words, there is already a pitch clock within the rules of baseball. Slow workers like former Dodger Pedro Baez will need to adjust. Every team has pitchers and catchers meeting to go over the hitters on the opposing team, so they should already have a plan how they want to attack each hitter.

The couple of rules I have mentioned are not new for this season, but the fact it has become common practice they have not been adhered to is emblematic of where the sport goes wrong. Players might not like it if they are told to stay in the box or pitch the ball, but the pace of play will be greatly improved if it happens. I am also of the opinion it will increase offense as pitchers will not have as much time to rest between pitches, so they will be less likely to use maximum effort on each delivery.

Before baseball changes things around just for the sake of changing them, I would like to see how the game would look if it followed its own rules. Little league players stay in the batter’s box and work fast from the mound, without putting a bunch of foreign substances on the baseball, so if they can do it, then big leaguers can too.

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