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MLB Makes No-Pitch Intentional Walk Official

A few other changes for the 2017 season were announced Thursday morning.

Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

SCOTTSDALE, Arizona — In a joint press release, Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association announced the following “modifications” (as they put it) for the 2017 season:

  • The start of a no-pitch intentional walk, allowing the defensive team’s manager to signal a decision to the home plate umpire to intentionally walk the batter. Following the signal of the manager’s intention, the umpire will immediately award first base to the batter.
  • A 30-second limit for a manager to decide whether to challenge a play and invoke replay review.
  • When a manager has exhausted his challenges for the game, Crew Chiefs may now invoke replay review for non-home run calls beginning in the eighth inning instead of the seventh inning.
  • A conditional two-minute guideline for Replay Officials to render a decision on a replay review, allowing various exceptions.
  • A prohibition on the use of any markers on the field that could create a tangible reference system for fielders.
  • An addition to Rule 5.07 formalizes an umpire interpretation by stipulating that a pitcher may not take a second step toward home plate with either foot or otherwise reset his pivot foot in his delivery of the pitch. If there is at least one runner on base, then such an action will be called as a balk under Rule 6.02(a). If the bases are unoccupied, then it will be considered an illegal pitch under Rule 6.02(b).
  • An amendment to Rule 5.03 requires base coaches to position themselves behind the line of the coach’s box closest to home plate and the front line that runs parallel to the foul line prior to each pitch. Once a ball is put in play, a base coach is allowed to leave the coach’s box to signal a player so long as the coach does not interfere with play.

You already know how I feel about the no-pitch IBB so I won’t go into great detail on it, except to say that it isn’t clear here whether a manager can still order a traditional intentional walk (in other words, have the catcher stand up, indicate an outside pitch with his hand, and have the pitcher lob in four soft tosses). There doesn’t seem to be a prohibition of this, so I would guess it might still happen, at times. For example, if a manager has a pitcher not quite ready in the bullpen, that could give some extra warmup time. I’d expect that to happen on occasion.

If not, the last true IBB in major-league history will be the one Addison Russell drew in the 10th inning of Game 7 of the World Series.

I find it interesting that they have pushed back the Crew Chief review from the seventh to the eighth inning, if a manager has used up challenges. This would seem to indicate that fewer such reviews will happen, which is too bad. It was also not clarified in the joint press release what the “exceptions” would be for having a review go longer than two minutes. In general I think that two minutes should be sufficient time to figure out most reviews.

Finally, the “second step” rule clarification is seemingly aimed at just one pitcher, Carter Capps of the Padres, formerly of the Marlins:

I don’t see how that’s not a balk (if there are runners on base) or an illegal pitch otherwise. I hope they do start calling this. It will make Capps have to change his delivery, or he simply won’t be in baseball anymore.

In my opinion, most of these changes “fix” things that weren’t broken. Someone stop Rob Manfred before he ruins this game.