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Manfred Going Full Tilt On Mound Visits

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Oakland Athletics v Detroit Tigers
“We have to stop meeting like this.”
Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images

As Susan Slusser reports, mound visits are going the way of VHS tapes (assuming you can expect to be visited by 6 VHS tape each day). Not only are mound visits being limited to 6 per game, but more importantly, “visits” apparently includes social calls from “players” — which presumably incorporates that most frequent mound guest, the catcher.

That’s a heck of a shakeup, considering that previously not only were a visit per inning allowed from pitching coaches or managers, but in between you would routinely see roughly 17 visits from the catcher. Whether that number represented the number “between visits from somebody else” or “per inning” depended on the catcher.

I have long been a proponent of severely limiting catcher visits, and not only because some catchers have been indulging in the “visit every other pitch” model that slows the game down in the most tedious way possible. I also believe it is antithetical to the spirit of the game to allow such frequent “strategy timeouts”.

Can you imagine if Steph Curry crossed mid court, looked at Draymond Green, and then turned to the official to say, “Hang on a sec. I’m not sure if everyone knows the play. I’ll just be a moment...” and if the official said, “Well, ok.” No, you have to call an actual timeout for that and you only get — well, now you seem to get eleventeen zillion in the NBA but you used to get just a few. Same with the NFL. Same with every sport except baseball, until now.

So suddenly, pitchers and catchers are going to have to improvise, in real time, based on their pre-game meetings, and that’s the way it should be. However, Manfred could have met pitchers and catchers closer to halfway, allowing one or two catcher visits per inning, or settling on the total number of 12 instead of 6.

On the heels of a long-standing culture of “meet whenever you want,” this is a dramatic hairpin turn in the opposite direction and it is going to force pitchers and catchers to find creative ways to check in. Some possible strategies to look for, maybe to recommend to A’s hurlers and receivers:

- Foul balls offer added ‘down time’ that could allow pitchers and catchers to have a quick word between the mound and the plate. In particular, those lazy fly balls lofted down the lines keep the ball technically in play for a while, during which time a battery can quickly confer without penalty.

- Pitchers and catchers may find time to catch up (“How’re the wife and kids? Also, how’s the slider?”) after outs are recorded, as caught fly balls are tossed back to the infield or as ground outs are celebrated with the age old ‘around the horn’ routine.

- All else failing, look for the oldest player on the team to fake a heart attack to distract everyone while the pitcher and catcher sneak a moment to chat. On the A’s that honor probably goes to Jed Lowrie, offering us the opportunity to see what exactly it looks like for someone to have a heart attack while looking incredulous at the last umpiring call. I imagine it looks a little bit like Don Knotts, seen here arguing with an umpire while suffering a heart attack.

This rule change is quite a precedent to be setting for pace of play, but I suppose that’s fitting. After all, it is Precedent’s Day.

Poll

How do you feel about the new rule limiting mound visits?

This poll is closed

  • 50%
    It’s about time and the catchers are lucky to get 6 visits.
    (186 votes)
  • 23%
    It’s a good change, but they should have allowed more like 12 visits.
    (85 votes)
  • 12%
    This is a swing way too far in the other direction.
    (46 votes)
  • 13%
    It was fine the way it was before.
    (49 votes)
366 votes total Vote Now