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Is the solution to baseball's pace problem a rule that's already on the books?

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The staff has some recommendations to bolster rules enforcement and call accuracy in Major League Baseball.

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Ben and Sam answer listener emails about Mariano Rivera's workload, rarely applied rules, FIELDf/x and shifts, quality starts, and more.

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Watching 50 balks to get a read on an imprecise rule, arbitrarily applied.

“I never called a balk in my life. I didn't understand the rule.” Ron Luciano, former major-league umpire

For all the talk about how complicated the infield fly rule is, it’s got nothing on the balk. The balk is, as I’ve always heard it said, more of a philosophy—“Don’t deceive the runner”— than a strict set of rules. Which is nuts, because deception is part of the game and always part of the pitcher’s attempt to hold a runner on. Varying how many looks a pitcher takes at the runner is deceptive, for instance, but certainly no balk. So “don’t deceive the runner in particularly defined ways” is more appropriate, but if these ways are particularly defined … well, now we’re out of philosophy and into a strict set of rules, after all. Do the rules make sense? Are they understandable, identifiable? Can we understand them and identify them? Let’s GIF* it a shot.

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...Unfortunately, the way the game is played has forced him to be that way.

There is no doubt in my mind that on Wednesday night Scott Cousins was guilty of a dirty play. When the Marlins’ outfielder was trying to score from third on fly ball, he made no attempt to reach home plate. As he neared home, he launched himself into Buster Posey’s upper body, apparently having made the decision that his best chance of scoring was to ensure that Posey was forcibly separated from the baseball, and that he himself would be able to find the plate in the confusion that followed.

He was probably correct about that decision, even though, in this case, Posey had already dropped the ball before any contact occurred. Posey was acting the way catchers are currently taught—receive the ball, and then drop to your knees across the front of the plate to block the runner’s access to the plate, while making the tag for the out. In any number of games on similar plays, the catcher does make a clean catch, the runner slides, the catcher’s shin guards hit the ground ahead of the runner’s foot, cutting off his path to the plate, the tag comes does down, and the out is recorded. Cousins’ play, like many before him, is an accepted part of the game today—and an evolutionary adaptation to the behavior of the catcher.  It is what you have to do to beat the catcher’s strategy. As I said before, I have no doubt that it was a dirty play, but baseball has accepted this particular pattern of dirt, and I can’t fathom how any punishment or retribution would be justified in the face of this organizational pattern.

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Clay takes the field to get acquainted with the rules and regulations of your great-great-grandaddy's baseball.

While looking toward the future with our comprehensive slate of current content, we'd also like to recognize our rich past by drawing upon our extensive online archive of work dating back to 1997. In an effort to highlight the best of what's gone before, we'll be bringing you a weekly blast from BP's past, introducing or re-introducing you to some of the most informative and entertaining authors who have passed through our virtual halls. If you have fond recollections of a BP piece that you'd like to nominate for re-exposure to a wider audience, send us your suggestion.

Revisit Clay's account of a trip back in time to baseball's formative years, which originally ran on October 26, 2006.

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April 15, 2011 9:00 am

Prospectus Q&A: YOU Make the Call! Part IV

5

David Laurila

Next up, checking in on the number of outs in an inning, the ground rules, and what can be appealed.

Most baseball fans feel they know the rules, but many of them are actually misunderstood, at least their nuances and technical definitions. Even you are fairly well-versed in the rulebook, a primer never hurts, so BP asked the MLB Umpiring Department about 10 of them. Major League Baseball umpire supervisor Charlie Reliford, a 19-year major-league umpire, and Major League Baseball umpire supervisor Larry Young, a 23-year major-league umpire, provided the definitions and clarifications.

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July 19, 2010 8:00 am

Contractual Matters: Protest Songs

2

Jeff Euston

Looking at the use of the protest rules and why most appeals are struck down.

The Yankees and Royals will square off in the Bronx on Saturday, the 27th anniversary of the infamous Pine Tar Game. That 1983 Sunday afternoon not only made George Brett a fixture in madcap blooper reels, but it is also one of the few major-league games in which a protest was upheld.

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Revisiting a conversation with the long-time official scorer in Boston.

Chaz Scoggins has been the primary official scorer at Fenway Park for over 30 years. A long-time sportswriter for The Lowell Sun and a former president of the Baseball Writers Association of America, Scoggins sat down for this interview in December 2004.

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February 17, 2009 1:05 pm

Prospectus Today: Changing the Game?

43

Joe Sheehan

Adapting the rules governing free agency might seem like sound policy, until you consider the impact on past actions and future offseasons.

Well, this is a ridiculous notion:

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September 5, 2008 11:58 am

Future Shock: The Process and the Grievance

29

Kevin Goldstein

A look at the draft soap opera that opens next week, and the convoluted machinations of the case before us.

Recent chats and my e-mail inbox have shown that our readers find the current draft soap opera a compelling story. Opinions are wide ranging, but beyond the issues themselves, numerous readers have asked about how the process actually works. Beyond the decision and who it may favor, how will a resolution come about? Here's a quick primer on what the grievance contains, and the steps to be taken on the way to a final ruling.

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Question: what's the difference between an agent and an advisor?

This time of year, I get a handful of emails with specific questions about some draft nuts and bolts, and this year--maybe because of the O.J. Mayo situation--that handful has turned into a full bushel. The email tends to go something like this:

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