MESA, Ariz. — A’s manager Bob Melvin can live with Major League Baseball’s altered intentional-walk rule. He’s just glad some more drastic changes weren’t implemented for 2017.
It was announced that pitchers no longer will have to toss four pitches outside the strike zone for an intentional walk. Managers will simply signal from the dugout when they want to put an opposing batter on first base.
That change is part of the effort to speed up the pace of play, although it’s debatable how much time will really be saved by eliminating traditional intentional walks. There was just one intentional walk allowed every 2.6 games in 2016.
“I was just worried about any number of new rules coming in,” Melvin said. “If this was just one they’re looking to speed up with, I’m OK with that.”
MLB management reportedly has pushed the idea of a 20-second pitch clock on pitchers — which has been used in the upper minor leagues — and limiting the number of trips managers and coaches can make to the mound, both in an effort to play games faster. Melvin is against the idea of limiting trips to the mound in particular.
“It sounds like there’s a school that thinks that’s not that important, and it really is,” he said. “Unless you’ve been out on the mound and know how quickly the game can go at times, especially in big situations … it’s our job to try to slow it down for the pitcher. For me that would have been a tough one.”
Commissioner Rob Manfred spoke critically of the players’ association for not being more receptive to some rules changes for 2017. Management can change rules without the union’s consent if it gives one-year’s notice, and Manfred reportedly intends to give that notice to the union with an idea of possibly implementing changes for 2018.
One of the more radical ideas tossed about was starting with a runner on second base in extra innings, hoping to avoid games dragging on late. Although that idea will be tried in the World Baseball Classic and possibly in some Single-A leagues, all indications are it’s unlikely to reach the majors.
“I was hoping that never got any traction,” Melvin said. “I mean, it’s just not baseball, for me. It’s like a simulated game — at the most important part of the game.”