Monday, January 19, 2004


Alan Schwartz has an article up on ESPN.com with ten suggested rule changes, and right at the top is tinkering with the four ball walk rule. Damnit, I thought this was dead.

We've heard a lot of grumbling about this one these past couple of years. It seems people aren't jazzed to watch Barry Bonds (with the help of obliging opposing pitchers and managers) obliterate the single season record for On-Base Percentage, Walks, and Intentional Walks. Seems people would perfer he obliterate the Home Run record instead. (I guess Tommy G. and Greg were right.)

I'll give Schwartz credit. His proposal isn't as idiotic as some. Simply, a four-pitch walk would advance the runners. Try to intentionally walk Bonds (or even Neifi Perez) with a runner on first and you'll be facing runners at first and third. Walk him on four pitches a runner at second, and it's an RBI. What's not to like? It's practical, non-discriminatory, and easy to enforce. And I still think it's a bad idea for a lot of reasons.

Firstly, it'll make the Bonds v. Ruth debate even more convoluted. If pitchers are "forced" to pitch to Bonds, no doubt his OBP will go down a little as he makes more outs. But he'll also hit a bunch more homers, right? So, for all practical purposes, maybe there will be no change in his OPS (all the reason to get off OPS and go to GPA). But figuring out what those numbers mean in context to what Ruth and Williams did will be heck of a lot more difficult than they already are. Might Bonds slug .900? Yup. Would that be pretty cool to watch? You betcha. But would it be in anyway meaningful to compare Bonds' future accomplishments to past sluggers? Um, err... And if Bonds did go on to pass Ruth and Aaron, you'd have to Marris* the record. Is that what we want? Another asterisk? Aren't all finally relieved that the recent accomplishments of McGwire, Sosa, and Bonds have forever killed that asterisk? (By my guestimates, Bonds would have about 15 more homers by now if the rule had been put in place after his 2001 season.)

Ok, maybe the casual fan doesn't care about that. And maybe sportswriters like the idea of changing the rule so that it'll taint Barry's accomplishments and in short really piss him off.

But isn't there an easier way to solve this problem? If the Giants are upset that Barry doesn't see enough good pitches, the they should get some fucking protection behind him. Think Bonds would get 61 intentional passes if Vladimir Guerrero (recently a free agent, Mr. Sabean) was batting behing him? Or Gary Sheffield (also a free agent and a buddy to boot)? Or A-Rod (apparently on the trading block)? Or Manny Ramirez (placed on waivers late last year)? This isn't baseball's problem. It's Brian Sabean and Peter Magowan's.

Mantle batted behind Marris when the latter hit 61*. And even Ruth had Gehrig behind him.

If you're going to invest in a twice in a lifetime player, get some protection, too.

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