With runners on second and third and two out in the top fourth inning of a late August game against the Colorado Rockies last season, Washington Nationals’ manager Dusty Baker signaled for his starter, A.J. Cole, to issue an intentional walk to the No. 8 hitter, Daniel Descalso.
It did not go as planned. Cole fired the first ball he threw by catcher Wilson Ramos and all the way to the backstop in Nationals Park, allowing the runner to score from third.
“It’s just one of those things that happened,” Cole said after the game, “first time I’ve ever done it and hopefully it never happens again.”
“I haven’t seen an intentional walk go awry in a long time,” Baker added.
“That’s one reason why — they were going to say just take your base intentionally — but that’s a reason for it not to, because you never know when a guy is going to throw one away.”
According to an ESPN report, Major League Baseball will no longer be giving pitchers an opportunity throw one away.
ESPN’s Howard Bryant, citing “team and union sources”, reported last night that, “... Major League Baseball has approved a change to the intentional walk rule, going from the traditional four-pitch walk to a dugout signal.”
This is all in the name of improving the pace of play, of course, though the time saved by letting teams signal for an intentional walk rather than tossing four pitches outside the zone will be minimal:
“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.”
The change will go into effect this season according to the report, with limits on the time spent on replay reviews another possibility.
The changes come less than twenty-four hours after MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred lamented the fact that there won’t really, “... be any meaningful change for the 2017 season due to a lack of cooperation from the MLBPA.”
Additional rule changes being considered reportedly included altering the strike zone, enforcing pitch clocks and limiting trips to the mound.
[ed. note - “For the record, if the ridiculous idea of putting a runner on second in extra innings is ever adopted, we quit.”]
For now, just say goodbye to the four-pitch intentional walk... Will you miss them?