Any Chance We Un-Learn the Whole Ball Beat the Man Rule?
- Updated: June 11, 2009
It can take years, decades, sometimes even centuries. But, occasionally, we come to realize that long-accepted truths are simply not. The world is not flat (no matter what Thomas Friedman says). Our planet is not sound. McGwire and Sosa aren’t the most naturally gifted home run hitters of all-time. Ron Burgundy won’t read anything that you put on the teleprompter. Wait, that last one’s true. Anyway, it’s with this belief in mind that we’re hoping that another long-accepted “truism” can be discarded: when a throw beats a runner that runner is automatically out.
Yes, we are calling for the permanent and absolute eradication and lifetime banishment of one of baseball’s longest-standing unwritten rules. No one moment has led us to this pivotal juncture. Rather, it is the cumulative effect of years and years of watching umpires across the majors almost universally punching runners out at various bases solely based on the fact that the ball arrived before the runner. Placement of the tag, speed of the tag, hell, the applying of a tag is way too often completely inconsequential. Ball here first. Call runner out. It is neanderthal-ish umping at its best.
A recent call against Gary Sheffield at home plate during Tuesday night’s opener between the Mets and Phillies was only a subtle reminder of a problem that has reached epidemic proportions. This takes place every night in stadiums across the country on pickoff plays, stolen base attempts and plays at the plate. It is far worse than what is becoming the near-automatic appeal third strike punch-out on what are at best quarter swings. But that’s neither here nor there. There are plenty of unwritten baseball rules that are – in simple fact – direct violations of rules.
However, I have no problem with the “around the bag” double play turn. You want to plunk a guy that plunked your guy? I’m all for it. Penalize a batter for keeping the lumber on his shoulder when a pitcher is consistently throwing strikes? I even have some flexibility and tolerance for stretching the zone a bit. Patience, latitude and understanding are not in my vocabulary when it comes to this topic.
You know why? Because it’s just plain lazy. I have no issues with an ump just flat out missing a call on a bang-bang play on a steal at second. I absolutely have a problem with them punching out runners simply because the catcher made a good throw and a tag was put on — and almost making a premeditated call on that account. I’m sick and tired of watching it. Can we start a petition or something? Perhaps join together and march on Bud Selig’s office? Something must be done. The time has come. Who’s coming with me? Dorothy Boyd? Anyone?