New Year. . . New Rules?

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Happy New Year To All. May 2011 bring us the glory most of us are dreaming of after the terrific signings of the past month. But may it also bring us new baseball friends and all the joys of game itself. This is the time of year when the darkness of the off season starts to feel long. Thanks to the MLB Network, all of those replays of the last year quench a bit of our thirst.

In a recent issue of ESPN magazine, writers collectively reviewed rules across sports. Charles Curtis and Eddie Matz wrote about “tweaks” that transformed games. The one-hop out was nixed in 1858. While I wouldn’t call that a mere “tweak” it may have seemed like a small change back then, though its consequences were long and hugely pervasive. Imagine how many no-hitters Roy Halliday would pitch, they ask. The significance of their list reminds me that baseball must continue to proceed slowly with rule changes in order to manage unforeseen effects. The home-run review rule is fine by me, as it hasn’t altered play. An interesting proposition to change the balk rule, with a strict marking on the mound is a practical solution to reducing manager sprints to the face of an umpire. But, I wonder, again, is the issue one of forcing stricter limitations on interpretation the real way to go, or can we just better train those guys, with some salary incentives in the mix?

This past season, there was one element, not necessarily a rule, that annoyed me the most and it didn’t have to do directly with the action on the field. I never understand the announcers need to discuss a no-hitter in progress before the 7th inning. It seemed to me that this past year we experienced a great deal of no-hitter hype, most of it premature, as though reporters were racing to declare an election winner before the polls close. Jason Turbow has an excellent chapter on this superstition and practice in his book, The Baseball Codes. After reading this, I find I am not alone in my request for superstition to be as contagious in the booth as it is in the dugout.

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