The Chicago Cubs, along with the other 29 Major League teams, will be part of a major step in the history of Major League Baseball this season.
Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon is known for ‘trick’ plays and strange defensive positioning gimmicks. However, even he won’t be able to get around the changes the league is making to the intentional walk.
According to ESPN, effective this year, pitchers will no longer need to throw four balls as part of an intentional walk. Instead, the intentional base-on-balls will come via a signal from the dugout.
The Major League Baseball Player’s Union and Major League Baseball have been discussing the matter for some time. Earlier on Tuesday, Commissioner Rob Manfred made it clear he planned to make changes to the game.
"” … We intend to pursue our agenda for change in year two … for the benefit of the game and the fans.”"
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Tony Clark, head of MLBPA, and Manfred have traded barbs back-and-forth over proposed changes to the game, including alterations to the strike zone and reduced mound visits. For Clark, the nuances of the game seem to be something to be protected, rather than diminished.
Clark and his players seem more and more like a hindrance to Manfred’s view. In fact, the commissioner got testy this week, backing up his claims with what he called evidence.
"“We know not based on impressions or thoughts — we know based on really fundamental research — what our fans think about the game,” Manfred said. “It’s in the player’s interest it’s in our interest to be responsive to what fans think about the game.”"
The average MLB game had between two and three intentional walks last season. Bypassing the traditional intentional walk could cut around two minutes from game times. Average game length rose by four minutes last season after falling by six the year prior.
What does Joe think?
As for the Chicago Cubs, manager Joe Maddon weighed in on pace-of-play issues 11 months ago. Widely respected throughout the game, the 2015 NL Manager of the Year seems to have an old-school approach.
He talked about how shortening games would help writers hit deadlines, while mound visits and like-minded strategy only enhances the quality of the game. It’s hard to argue that when all sides are on the same page, you get a better performance.
But I digress.
At least last offseason, the Cubs skipper needed more answers from the league regarding the issue. We saw how critical defensive positioning and mound visits were in the team’s World Series run a year ago, so it’s unlikely his stance has altered in less than a year.
"“I need to know more as to why the pace of the game is such a huge issue and who it’s bothering. Of course, at the end of the day, I’m like Colin Powell: I’m going to give you my best advice and my strongest loyalty, absolutely. If it’s something that comes from the top and it’s vital to the survival of the game of baseball, of course, you jump on board."