As you know, there are a number of rule tweaks — I wouldn’t call them “changes” because they’re only temporary — for games this Spring Training. This is being done to keep players healthy as they ramp up from not having had a full season in almost 18 months.
Here’s one rule change that’s been vexing some fans:
For games that occur from February 27 (or 28) through March 13, Official Baseball Rule 5.09(e) (“Retiring the Side”) shall be relaxed, such that defensive managers may end an inning prior to three outs following any completed plate appearance, provided the pitcher has thrown at least 20 pitches.
This happened four times in Wednesday’s 8-8 tie between the Cubs and Mariners at Sloan Park.
First, in case you were wondering what I did with my scorecard when that happened (for a larger version of the card click here):
Some fans are not happy with this rule. In the Tribune, Paul Sullivan and Meghan Montemurro quoted one fan — who happens to be my former ABC-7 colleague Paul Meincke, a White Sox fan — who really dislikes this rule:
It happened five times during the Sox-Rangers game — and the booing from the crowd became incrementally louder on each occasion.
“Totally aggravating,” said Paul Meincke, a former reporter at ABC-7. “This is not Little League. There is no slaughter rule. Jose Abreu is up with the bases loaded and they just stop the game? Nobody knew what was going on. Everybody seated many seats apart looked at each other like, ‘What is this?’
“By the second or third time we figured it out, and eventually they made an announcement.”
Meincke’s comment does have one valid complaint, in my view — “eventually they made an announcement.” This is something that should be done at the beginning of ANY game this spring where rule changes are going to be in effect. There was no announcement during the Cubs/Mariners game any of the four times this happened, and there probably should have been. Further, for Tuesday’s game, which I knew beforehand would run only seven innings, there was no announcement of that either. Fans do have the right to know what they’re going to see ahead of time, especially this spring when games and innings can be shortened.
Personally? Like Meincke, who said in the Tribune article that he paid $38 for his ticket, I’m a paying customer. Unlike Meincke, I have no problem with these rule changes. I understand the reasons they’re being done — and in the case of Wednesday’s Cubs game, it ran three hours, 26 minutes even with these shortened innings. Letting those innings go longer might have made it a four-hour game. Teams don’t have the minor leaguers available this spring to relieve struggling major-league pitchers, and that’s the principal reason this rule change is in effect. It will end, as noted above, with games beginning March 14, just 10 days from now.
The results of these games mean nothing and they’re not played to win. I am 100 percent in favor of this rule, and the shortened-game rule, to help protect players’ health for the regular season.
Sox manager Tony La Russa was quoted in the Tribune article as saying he will try to avoid doing this going forward. As for Cubs manager David Ross?
“That’s kind of the ace in the hole if something really gets out of hand,” Ross said. “But at the end of the day, these are exhibition games. I understand fans’ perspective of wanting to win and cheer for their group for sure, but also we’re trying to keep everybody healthy for the stuff that counts, which is the season.”
Players’ health is paramount for Ross. He hates that some fans are upset that the on-field product is not living up to what they expect. Even so, Ross has the big picture in mind.
“To give the fans the best product we possibly can, we need to protect guys on the front end after only playing 60 games last year and having limited innings,” Ross said.
“And as much as these guys are unbelievable athletes and really take care of their bodies, the wear and tear is real, and so we’re trying to protect those guys so fans can see a great product throughout the summer and not have a guy from Double A coming up and making his debut because he’s not ready with his stuff yet.”
I agree with Ross. Games during the regular season are the ones that are meaningful, and these minor rule tweaks are necessary, in my view, to keep players 100 percent so they’re ready to go beginning April 1.
They really should make announcements when this happens at Sloan Park, though.
The "roll the inning" rule after 20 pitches...
This poll is closed
Great idea to keep players healthy!
Hate it! Play real baseball!
Don’t care either way