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Will the ‘intentional balk’ become a thing in MLB?

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Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen did it on Friday to give his team a perceived advantage over the Cubs.

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Friday night, the Cubs trailed the Dodgers 5-3 in the ninth inning. With one out, Jason Heyward reached on an error that put him on second base.

After Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen struck out David Bote, this happened [VIDEO].

That’s right, Jansen intentionally balked, to put Heyward on third base. Why did he do that?

Jansen said his intentional balk was executed to prevent sign stealing and was the idea of bench coach Bob Geren.

“The way the game was going, we definitely want to tighten up the signs, not that the Cubs are stealing signs or anything,” explained Jansen.

“We feel, me and Uncle Bob [Geren], we’ve been talking about it for a little bit and he came up with the idea with [leads of] two runs or three runs and two outs. Especially yesterday, tying run at the plate, not saying anything about nobody, you just never know. Always got to be on your toes. Just be extra little cautious.”

Jansen said the discussion of an intentional balk began in Spring Training, but he kept forgetting to do it.

“I finally thought it was a good time to try it and it turned out pretty well,” said Jansen.

When you think about it, this is a good idea. With two out in the ninth and a lead of two runs or more, the runner on second is going to need a hit to score him, so it doesn’t matter if the runner is on second or third. And if he scores on anything other than a home run, the leading team is still going to be leading. On Friday, Jansen then struck out Victor Caratini to end the game.

In a way, it’s surprising no one has done it before now, as it seems like such an obvious thing to do. I would expect other teams to begin using this strategy in similar situations. It certainly seems like something Joe Maddon would do.

Sign-stealing in this fashion is a time-honored baseball tradition. All teams do it, with runners on second seeing if they can steal signs by looking at the catcher. Most teams have multiple sets of signs that they can change in that kind of situation.

Since this is something apparently new to baseball, would teams want the option to refuse the base advance in that situation? That’s something that could be added to the rules, if enough baseball people wanted it, to prevent the “intentional balk” from becoming a “thing.”

But if things stay the way they are, expect this to be done almost every time a team finds itself in that situation: Two out in the ninth, up two or more runs, only one runner on base and that runner on second base.