Years After High School Baseball Did It, MLB Ditching Traditional Intentional Walk | Connecticut Public Radio

Years After High School Baseball Did It, MLB Ditching Traditional Intentional Walk

Mar 3, 2017

On Thursday, Major League Baseball and the players association announced the elimination of the traditional four-pitch intentional walk. Instead of calling for pitches, managers could call for a "no-pitch" intentional walk, and the goal is to help speed up the game.

The intentional walk has been a part of baseball for over 100 years. It’s a strategy play: a move where a pitcher throws four straight pitches out of the strike zone to gain a favorable outcome on the next guy up -- or to put someone on base that will likely beat you with his bat.

The average major league game lasted three hours last season and many fans have said that’s just too long.

The game's popularity has waned in recent years. According to The Harris Poll, 15 percent of Americans named baseball their favorite sport in 2015, compared to 23 percent in 1985.

Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred attempted to address this issue last week when he revealed the change approved by the league.

"He just wants more action in the sport and wants to decrease dead time," said Jayson Stark, senior baseball writer. "That’s where the intentional walk change fits in -- it’s symbolic to say ‘this is the first shot in the war on dead time.’”

But Stark knows the move will only save so much time – The Washington Post estimated just 35 seconds a game.  That's because managers hardly call for the intentional walk now. And not everyone is in favor of the change -- even those in leagues that already incorporate it.  

"Baseball was also meant to be played, in my opinion, without a clock," said Martin Fiori, baseball coach for East Catholic High School in Manchester. "There is an element of strategy. There is an element of one-on-one. People who play the game and love the game are not bored with it."

Pitches are not thrown to execute intentional walks in Connecticut high school baseball. Fred Balsamo has been the CIAC Baseball Tournament Director for the past 20 years and said that he can’t remember ever seeing a pitch-by-pitch intentional walk.

"It does streamline the games," Balsamo said. "It does create a little bit more of a simple situation for something that can be very complicated."

Back when the high school intentional walk rule was adopted nationally, it was done to save time, which is what MLB is trying to do now.

Fiori said he wouldn’t change how it’s done at his level, but that he and some of his peers think that it's almost pointless for the majors.

"I don’t know how much this is actually going to speed the game," Fiori said. "It seems like there are other things that they can do if they really want it to be quicker."

Other changes include limits on replay review.