David Ortiz complained today about the new rules requiring batters to keep their feet in the batter’s box, arguing that a stroll around the plate was needed to strategize. And he complained that pitchers have no such limitation on their pace. But it’s not about you, Papi, it’s about the fans who have to watch the silent drama without cue cards.
Baseball’s virtue is also its vanity. It is a thinking person’s game, but it is also a spectator sport that requires a pace. Both pitchers and hitters step in and out of the circle of action trying to get an edge on their opponents. It’s very cerebral, but also endlessly calculating– like trying to freeze the kicker before he kicks a field goal. It might give you an edge, but it makes bad theater.
Papi is right about the pitchers who stroll around the mound after every pitch, especially the so-called specialists, who treat pitching like golfing. Each shot gets lined up in its own special way. Not much rhythm in the 7th, 8th, and 9th innings, just pitch and stroll, pitch and stroll. Talk about anti-climactic! Like watching paint dry. These guys need to be on the clock.
But same for the hitters who think they have to treat every pitch like it was the World Series. All the nervous mannerisms of practice swinging, tugging on batting gloves, stretching, anything but stepping up to the plate. All this to watch another pitch go low outside and the rituals resume.
If you spend your time on the bench or in the bullpen studying the opponents, if you do your homework before the game, if you talk to your team mates about who has back-breaking slider or who is leaning too far over the plate, you have what you need to know before you take the mound or the batter’s box. You don’t need to cram for the exam by thinking about the live action. Let the coaches or the catcher guide you from their excellent perspectives. That’s what secret signals are for.
Truth be told, there are just few players on each team that drag the game into slow motion. But that’s what rules are for, the deadbeats. Get them moving or get them a new job. They have all the face-time they need in an average baseball game. They are not being paid by the hour.
So let’s shorten script and heighten the drama in America’s Past-time. It’s not a race, but neither is it a walk in the park.