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fujikawa cubsBaseball owners last week approved a trio of rule changes, says Jayson Stark, all of which will be noticeable next year as you watch the Cubs, assuming they are approved by the Players Association. The three changes:

  • The first, and undoubtedly most popular, rule change is the death of the dreaded fake-to-third-throw-to-first pitching move, which never works, and always annoys. That move would now be considered a balk. It makes me wonder what the consequences of the change will be – more throws to third? More guys taking off from first on the first move toward third, because now there can’t be a fake? Could make for a little more excitement on the base paths. (This rule change can actually be implemented unilaterally by the owners if the players say no, so expect this one to happen. The others aren’t expected to be opposed by the players.)
  • The second change would allow coaches and managers to bring interpreters to the mound when they come out to speak to foreign-born pitchers who don’t speak fluent English. This would presumably impact new reliever Kyuji Fujikawa, who comes over from Japan. He’s said he can communicate well enough with coaches and his catcher, but I’m not sure if he’s considered fluent. And if the Cubs can bring out an interpreter to help, why wouldn’t they? The rule change could also impact any other pitchers – Spanish-speaking, for example – who require an interpreter.
  • Teams are now permitted to have seven coaches in uniform on the bench for games, an increase from six. This rule change probably explains why there has been a touch of confusion about whether new assistant hitting coach Rob Deer would be able to be a uniformed coach on the bench during games. Previously, only six coaches were permitted to be in uniform on the bench, which would have included manager Dale Sveum, bench coach Jamie Quirk, pitching coach Chris Bosio, first base coach Dave McKay, third base coach David Bell, and hitting coach James Rowson. Teams pushed for the addition of a seventh permitted coach, primarily because of the proliferation of assistant hitting coaches.
  • WiCubsFan

    So any fake to 3rd is a balk?? Or just when you fake to third AND throw to first? Kind of a silly rule, but I admit…I hated when pitchers did it.

    • MichiganGoat

      I believe it’s just motioning toward third then throwing to first. Basically you can move to third like you move to first but you can’t go toward one bag then switch to the other bag.

      • Mick

        I don’t think you’d be allowed to move to third and throw to first because in essence that’s the same exact thing just w/o the arm motion. The whole fake to third was to bait the runner at first to make his break to second. With this rule change you’re just going to see a lot more quick step-offs or actual throws to third. So, basically no change in strategies just a different action to accomplish the same thing. Fans boo at every pickoff attempt, why change the rule to remove this specific one?

    • random_monkey

      Indeed, it’s gonna be interesting to see how these plays are called. If we fake to third but don’t go for first, and then the runner tries to advance to second, do we get a balk for throwing to second, or is it already a balk from the fake at third?

      I foresee a fair bit of inconsistency and controversy!

      • hansman1982

        THEY’RE TAKING THE STRATEGY OUT OF THE GAME!!!! Who cares that it looks silly when the pitcher does this, they are atheletes and should be able to fake to 3rd and throw to 1st with the best of them…

      • Mick

        Yes, it would have been a balk under the old rules to fake to third and then throw to second. You have to throw it to a base where a runner was to begin the play unless you step off the back of the rubber. This rule just removes the exception to the rule that you can make a move towards one base and throw to another. There aren’t any other situations where a pitcher would fake to one base and go to another.

    • frank

      I think Harry Carey used to say that that move went out with “high button shoes.” And shortly thereafter, I believe Mark Grace got picked off on that very move.

      • frank

        “Caray” — sorry, sorry, sorry . . .

      • Stinky Pete

        Someone on the Cubs used the move successfully in ’98 and I got so sad because I remembered how much he hated the move.

  • http://www.viewfromthebleachers.com Norm

    I don’t mind the fake-to-third-throw-to-first move.
    It *rarely* works, but when it does, it’s pretty funny.
    I just don’t like the guys that don’t really try to get that guy at first. They casually fake to third, then casually throw (or fake) to first.

  • college_of_coaches

    I actually remember Jack McDowell successfully pulling the first-to-third pickoff move when he was with the White Sox. I also remember Rick Sutcliffe doing it all the time, without success, and Harry Caray criticizing him for it from the booth.

  • Matt

    It looks more stupid than it actually is, in terms of usefulness. Thats the first problem with it. The other problem is that fans don’t understand that it’s used not necessarily to legitimately pick a runner off, but rather to nix first-movement steal attempts.

    I never had as much disdain for it as most people… but then, I was a pitcher so my perspective is admittedly skewed.

    I highly doubt the end result will be more pick-off attempts to third- especially with a runner on first. I can see a big increase in steal attempts in first and third situations now, and people will realize what a difference that .25 seconds of a raised pitcher’s leg will make on the success of steals in that situation.

  • Diamondrock

    I should have tried to get a job interpreting for Japanese baseball players instead of going to grad school. I’m sure it pays better.

  • Rcleven

    Will interpreters be allowed to have a glove to cover their lip movement or just wear a mask?
    Will other teams have foreign speaking lip readers in the stands and communicate by cell phone?
    These rules are just getting out of hand.

    • Pat

      I can’t see why they would need a glove. It’s fairly easy to shield your mouth with your hand if necessary.

      • frank

        I like the mask idea though–how about one of those Hannibal Lecter masks, or maybe Guy Fawkes . . .

    • TWC

      “These rules are just getting out of hand.”

      Are you just waxing hyperbolic here, or are there other “new” rules that are throwing sand in your undies? The only other “new rule” that I can think of that’s been announced recently is that the dugout-to-bullpen phones are going wireless. Oh, the humanity!

      • Rcleven

        Just saying rules are made to be broken.
        People will always push the envelope to get an advantage.

  • cubchymyst

    Does the interpreter count for the extra coach on the bench or is he a separate entity? Also, I can’t wait for the first fake to third throw to second in an attempt to avoid a balk.

  • Miggy80

    Fake to 3rd throw to 1st is the new dance the kids are doing.

  • fortyonenorth

    Is the DH rule the only baseball rule that applies in one league and not the other? Related to this, are the American League and National League distinct organization (i.e. legal) entities under the umbrella of MLB? I get kinda hung-up on the DH thing because it’s hard for me to imagine one league implementing a new major rule change unilaterally. Like, say, adding (or eliminating) a position player, changing the length of the base paths–even a minor one like the fake-to-third throw. How the heck did this happen with the DH?

    • Melrosepad

      Not sure about now, but for sure back then the National League and the American League were two completely different entities. Like the American Football League (AFL) and National Football League (NFL) were. Since they were a different league and only played each other for the world series it would have been pretty easy to get done.

      • Blublud

        They were seperate. They even had different commissioners. They became one business in 2000.

        • Melrosepad

          Thanks Blu. I couldn’t remember and didn’t want to look it up here at work.

  • King Jeff

    So, now Marmol will have no excuse when Svuem tells him to “just throw the f****** fastball!”.

  • Darwin Fred

    Just curious… If, say, Ozzie Guillen got a job this year as a manager, could he bring out an interpreter to the mound when there’s an English speaking pitcher on the mound? :-)

  • Brett

    “the dreaded fake-to-third-throw-to-first pitching move, which never works, and always annoys”

    Obviously you’ve never heard of Jack McDowell, who would have at least a couple of these each seasons. I can remember him getting Wade Boggs and Bo Jackson to name a couple.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Nope. Never heard of him. Not once.

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