Tuesday, February 28, 2017

February 28 2017--A Week Without Trump: Intentional Walk

Let's see how I do today--

Spring training is underway all over Florida except near Donald Trump's Palm Beach spread, Mar-a-Lago. The Secret Service is shunted visiting crowds away as well as shutting down local airports. But  Major League teams are making the best of the tumultuous situation.

Also, in an effort to speed up the game, they are meddling with one of baseball's most cherished strategies--the intentional walk.

For non-aficionados, an intentional walk or base-on-balls is when a team decides not to pitch to a hot hitter and on purpose the pitcher throws four out-of-the-strike-zone pitches and, with the umpire signaling ball four, the batter trots off to first base.

This takes about 30 seconds. Which appears to be too much time for desperate officials worried about the bottom line. They are eager to add excitement to the game. Like football or basketball they believe that making things move along quicker is the key to engaging alienated young fans who like football's hurry-up offenses, tennis' tie-breakers, hockey's shoot outs, and basketball's 24-second clock.

Baseball has already changed the rules so that batters, once at home plate and in the batter's box are not allowed to step away to readjust their batting gloves, spit, or scratch their crotches.

Also under discussion is reducing the number of times pitching coaches would be allowed to visit the mound to talk with pitchers and the institution of a pitch clock. Baseball's equivalent to basketball's 24-second version.

I hate all of these ideas.

It would be like reducing the number of characters Donald Trump could use when tweeting. Say 130, rather than the traditional 140. What it would do to him is a version of what these schemes would do to our national pastime--dilute and distort things to which we have become accustomed.

In baseball's case, time is irrelevant. In a speeded-up world where time is money baseball remains a haven of calm where time does not intrude or rule. It moves with an unhurried rhythm and pace of its own.

It's bad enough that all ballparks have installed Jumbotrons and blast rock and roll and rap music between innings. But to put pressure on teams to end games in less than two hours when virtually all memorable games unwind for up to four hours would be to change baseball from something it culturally always has been--a boys' (an now girls') game more suited to rural America than urban three-on-three schoolyard basketball pick up games. Baseball has been a reliable place of peace in a world of ceaseless action and conflict.

Moving things along in baseball should remain a small-ball goal for batters--hitting behind baserunners so that they can be moved along from first to second base.

Intentional bases on balls are an integral part of baseball's aesthetic and lore and can at times lead to surprising results. It should be an easy thing for pitchers to lob out-of-the-strike-zone tosses to their catchers. But at times they have erred--the concept of error, taking responsibility, also remains an essential metaphoric part of the game--bouncing one in the dirt where it eludes the catcher and the man on third comes scampering home with the winning run. Or at times when the batter manages to reach out of the strike zone and hits the weakly tossed ball for a homer or game-winning sacrifice fly as the Yankee's Gary Sanchez did late last season. A baseball example of the occasional power of upending the predictable.

There is yet one more crackpot idea under consideration--to shorten tied games as the teams move to extra innings the leagues are considering starting each at bat by placing a runner on second base so that the hitting team immediately has a runner in scoring position.

Baseball has traditionally rewarded scrappiness and this proposal to, without effort, give teams base runners, a leg up, is antithetical to the game's culture of hard work and limited reward where players can achieve Hall of Fame numbers by succeeding, making a hit, just three times for every 10 trips to the plate--what 300 hitters eek out.

I won't be making it this year to the Grapefruit League--too much tumult in South Florida when Trump is in residence--but I'll be watching on TV and following closely what is being done to spoil the game I love so much.
*   *   * 
Returning to my agenda for the week--I think I mentioned Trump only three times, which makes me feel I am making progress. The fever seems to be abating, the cold sweats too, as well as the detox tremors. Three more days to go. Let's see how I do after his address tonight to a joint session of Congress. Hopefully . . .

Labels: , , , , , ,


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home