Wednesday, March 22, 2017

It's "Play Ball!" Time, But There's Trouble on the Horizon

Opinion by John T. "Red" Ryan

SO NOW, TIME really does move along when you're having a good time here on Planet Earth! We find ourselves in the backwash of St. Patrick's Day, the arrival of Robin Red-Breast and (of course) BASEBALL !!

IT SEEMS NOT so long ago that we were greeting the 2016 Season; a year's pennant chase that started out strong on both sides of town. As we all found out after about two months, the White Sox fell off; but it was definitely "next Year" for the Cubs, who handily went the distance. They skillfully and without any hesitation took all; convincingly putting to rest all of the "Lovable Loosers" jokes and references to the 1908 Baseball Season.

SO, LET'S ONCE again, get out and pull for not only our team, but for both in their respective Leagues. The ideal and ultimately desired result would be an All Chicago, "Subway" Series ! We can hope, can't we ?

BUT THERE NOW appears on the Baseball horizon an ominous and threatening menace that threatens to change our National Pastime in both in a fundamental sense and remove some of the tension that is what makes our game such a great and serious alternate life that it is. W e're talking about a proposal that we'll call, just for sake of identification, "the Automatic Intentional Walk." 

THIS WAS RUDELY brought to our immediate attention this past week when we heard a news item as part of our car radio's news on the hour. It was then that, while the announcer was doing some sports items, that it hit us. The announcement said something like: "The Major League Baseball Players Association (union) had agreed to the implementing a rule that would reduce the Intentional Walk from an actual physical act of purposely throwing 4 wide ones up to the Plate; to the mere saying that the batter was walked. It would require no pitches, no control, nothing but a say so by the team which was out on the field. The purpose of such an implementation of such a rule is supposedly to speed up the game.

THE IDEA HAS been kicked around before; but has never been taken seriously. We recall that when the White Sox were bought from Bill Veeck by Jerry Reinsdorf's group in 1981, his partner, the Late Eddie Einhorn (1936-2016), made such a proposal in an interview. When I asked our two Grade School, Jenn (9 years) and Michelle (then 6), about what they thought about the idea, they quickly came up with some very astute observations. "Why the pitcher could throw a wild pitch.", ""He could balk in his delivery.", "The batter could still hit a pitch that wasn't too far outside." (We do recall seeing NY Yankee catcher, Yogi Berra do that very thing!) 

BASEBALL HAS GONE through many changes over the years. We've seen the adoption of the Infield Fly Rule (1895),  Radio (and later Television) broadcasting, Night Games ("under the lights") in the 1930's, implementation of Divisional Play (1969), the creation of the Designated Hitter  (1973) and the use of Video Instant Replay in tough calls more recently. The game was little affected by these developments; and even benefited in most cases.

BUT WE MUST object to the removal of an actual, integral part of the game (pitching to the batter), even if the object is to put him on. It is said that the idea is to save time and speed things up. Well, it wouldn't save enough to justify this diluting of the intentional walk to a "say so!" Let's hope that good judgement prevails and they find some other way to save time.

FOR EVEN WITH with an intentional walk, the hitter is still earning his way on base.

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John T. “Red” Ryan is a retired Chicago police officer and Garfield Ridge resident.    

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