Thoughts On This Season’s Rule Changes

An article by posted on January 17, 2013

UmpireTwo notable rule changes will take place this season.

One will be that translators are now allowed to come with coaches during mound visits. The other will be the banishment of the fake-to-first, throw-to-third move.

I want to analyze both, but before I do it’s important to be cognizant of the sensitivity surrounding the former. I write this with a complete understanding that many fans will be a part of the just-learn-English crowd. Albeit, that’s an oversimplified solution to the issue, I still don’t necessarily think that the rule is a good idea.

Here’s why:

When I first read about the allowance of translators on the mound, my initial thought was about NFL quarterbacks. Since the mid-90s, quarterbacks have had their plays piped in over a walkie-talkie installed in their helmets. I thought, “If we’re making it that easy, why don’t they just let pitchers wear headsets on the mound and get their pitches transmitted to them from the dugout.”

Like I said early, one’s response can’t just be to learn English. English is an incredibly difficult language to learn—maybe even the hardest along with some other Asian languages. I’ve tried to learn another language before. The older you get, the harder it becomes. My school of thought though is that if you’re going to make a choice to come to America to play a professional sport, you should at least have the courtesy to learn the native language. If I was getting paid six figures, I would feel a little obligated to learn. It’s not an issue of right or wrong, but that’s just my opinion.

I also feel that implementing such a rule makes it logical to think that players have less incentive to learn English. Subsequently, we will see less English-second-language players speaking English fluently—if at all—at fan events or even press conferences. Do we all remember Sammy Sosa magically forgetting how to speak English when asked about steroids? Accountability is important to me. Without transparency, it ceases to exist.

Lastly, if there wasn’t enough of a perception about athletes being spoiled, there could be even more now. As simple as it is to say, “Just learn English” it’s just as easy now for pitchers to flip it around and say, “I don’t need to learn English to be a pitcher in Major League Baseball so screw it.”

I have a lot of respect for players that decide to leave their native country to play in America. Without trying to sound too prophetic, those people are what makes this country great. It takes a lot of courage to make that kind of decision, but that’s exactly what it is—a decision. It’s a decision a player makes on their own volition. So to rebut by saying, “How could you say, ‘Just learn English?’ Learning a new language is hard,” doesn’t exactly fly with me. These players willingly know what they’re getting themselves into.

Fake to third, throw to first

My initial reaction to this was “thank God.” Now that I sit here and think about it, I can’t help but apply the classic adage, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Fake to third, throw to first is a ridiculous move. There’s no doubt in my mind about that. Why ban it though?

If you’re a pitcher and you’re naïve enough to think that it’s an effective move then go for it. Just know that America will be laughing at you every time you do it. It’s a little-league play and it just looks silly when it’s attempted.

It’s also strange to me because this rule gives baserunners the advantage of knowing that if a pitcher goes to third then the baserunner’s never going to get checked by him at first. The pitcher would have to throw to another base first and that player can throw to first.  I guess this means a runner can lackadaisically run halfway to second on a pickoff attempt to third and essentially walk back to first without worrying about getting picked off by the pitcher. Maybe I’m missing something here, but it seems kind of unnecessary.

What are your thoughts on the new rules?

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