Synthetic vs. Organic Change in Baseball

Baseball organically changes beautifully on its own, if outsiders in power don't try to make it into something it's not.

Baseball organically changes beautifully on its own, if powerful outsiders don’t try to make it into something it’s not.


This little MLB rule change almost slipped by until we read it on page C4 of today’s Thursday, February 23, 2017 sports section of the Houston Chronicle. Starting this season, the MLB rules makers have decided that an intentional walk will no longer require the pitcher to actually make four lame outside pitches to put the batter on first base as a runner. From now on, the decision to put a guy on will be made by hand signal from the batting team’s dugout – and the player will simply head to first base as a runner as designated. There will be no future chance that a lazy pitch might remotely end up as a reachable batted ball – and no risk of wild pitch/passed ball that could advance existing base-runners – and possibly allow one of them to actually score.

The rule change is being presented as one of those MLB actions designed to accelerate the “pace of play”. Commissioner Rob Manfred said something in general about this sort of thing the other day, when he said that his office wasn’t so much interested in shortening the actual clock time on games as they are trying to initiate ways of actually speeding up the “pace of play” in baseball. Manfred’s comments were in relation to a story that placing a runner on second base to start every extra inning time at bat was being examined as a way to possibly speed up the ending for extra innings games for the added convenience and safety of fans. – What Manfred did not add to the goals in that instance is the fact that extra inning games are simply expensive for clubs due to the absence of further food and beer sales – and the ongoing expense of stadium and security staff who are still on the payroll clock until game’s end.

What’s scary about today’s change in the intentional walk rule – and the possible change down the line that would allow each extra inning time at bat to begin with a rule-placed runner at second base is that they are each synthetic propositions – and not organic actions, arising out of what happens between the game of culture players on the field. The appearance of the IW rule now favors the possibility that the placed 2nd base runner to start each extra inning is now also more dangerously probable. If it is approved, all it will take is for the home umpire to point to the base paths at start of the tenth inning and that action alone is enough to send the first batter up to 2nd as a base runner by synthetic rule – and not by any action of contest between the players on the field.

And the day that happens – is the day that baseball is now open to the worst of our purist fears. As reader Stan Opdyke (StanFromTacoma) so eloquently noted by comment on this subject last week:

“The bogus runner rule for extra innings is an awful suggestion. A guy could pitch a perfect game and lose. After nine perfect innings the tenth begins with the bogus runner on second. Ground ball to second advances him to third and a fly ball scores him. The following hitter makes an out so the pitcher could lose even though no one has reached base on an error, or hit. To top it off it would i guess be an earned run so the perfect pitcher’s ERA would be affected too.”

Synthetic vs. Organic Change in Baseball

For easy distinction here, synthetic changes in the way the game is played arise from commercial, external, and political forces outside the fair poles in the field of play. The problem is – baseball is not football or basketball – nor is it improved as a game by feeding the “enhance the pace of play” needs of commercial sponsors, MLB club ownerships, and other external political forces who may hope to use that phrase as the most expedient way to set baseball on a pace to compete with football for the fan dollars of those with deep pockets and short attention spans.

Organic changes are all of those redirections that have occurred between the lines of play from the sum of all that has happened as an evolutionary growth process. Baseball has gone from all of those 19th century tinkerings with changes in the pitching distances and other things, all effected by player experience, to the early 20th century and all the improvement in defense made possible by better fields and equipment, especially gloves, through the so-called dead ball era into the lively ball and Ruthian home run power age and all else the game has encountered along the way of it’s evolution as a game born free of the clock. If we could love and protect and respect the game for what it is, it could continue to shine forever for what it is – a game that is more like everyday life than any other.


We would love to see people rebel against that new signal-intentional-walk change before it becomes the set up path for the much more damaging second-base freebie runner to start the 10th proposition begins to look plausible to more of these vested external interest groups – and that includes Commissioner Manfred, if he really doesn’t understand or care about the organic nature of our grand old game and the threat that these kinds off changes pose to healthy organic growth.


 Bill McCurdy

Publisher, Editor, Writer

The Pecan Park Eagle

Houston, Texas




7 Responses to “Synthetic vs. Organic Change in Baseball”

  1. Robert McAuliffe Says:

    MLB severs the least little thread of connection to the past … at their peril.

  2. Wayne A Chandler Says:

    Another Executive Order !!

  3. Larry Dierker Says:

    After runners advanced to second and third in the Wotld Series with the count 3-2, the manager went to the mound. The catcher stood up and put his hand out for the intentional walk on the next pitch. The catcher moved back to his normal position as the pitcher delivered strike three to end the inning. Wish I could remember the details but it could have happened in any game next year if not for the morons at MLB.

    • Tom Hunter Says:

      It happened in the third game of the 1972 World Series, when Oakland A’s manager Dick Williams went to the mound and indicated that Rollie Fingers–who had a 3-2 count on Johnny Bench, and with runners on second and third–should walk Bench with first base open. Catcher Gene Tenace stood up to catch ball four for an intentional walk, but Fingers threw a slider on the outside corner and struck out a relaxed Bench. The Cincinnati Reds won that game 1-0, but lost the Series in 7 games.

  4. David Munger Says:

    Larry, wasn’t that Rollie Fingers striking out Johnny Bench? It reminds me of faking killing the clock in football then throwing a pass against a relaxed defense. The nuances that make the game great are slowly being taken away.

  5. Larry Dierker Says:

    I was thinking Oakland but couldn’t remember the players.

  6. Shirley Virdon Says:

    Changes such as those mentioned above will hurt the fan base in every MLB city as well as the TV-Radio fans! As a fan all of my life, I cannot sanction unnecessary changes such as the ones mentioned above! This game has been a part of this country’s entertainment base for millions of fans since it was introduced—- why is it necessary to change something that has been successful for so many years? Please do Not instill any of the changes mentioned in the commentary above!!!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: