In killing intentional walk, baseball loses a part of history, and gains nothing – Chicago Tribune

The four-pitch intentional walk, a relic from baseball’s past used at declining rates in the modern game, died on Wednesday, when Major League Baseball and its Players Association agreed to replace it with an automatic walk triggered by a signal from the dugout. The curious part was its cause of death: It was sacrificed in the name of shorter games.

That is curious, to say the least, because the intentional walk had neither the frequency of use nor the potential time-savings to make it an obvious target of league officials, led by Commissioner Rob Manfred, who want to speed up the pace of play. Last year, intentional walks occurred at a rate of one every 2.6 games. Their elimination would save perhaps a minute with each instance — a statistically insignificant improvement for a sport that averaged a record-high 3 hours 6 minutes per game in 2016.

Instead, the intentional walk was chosen as the starting point for pace-of-play reform because it was the only thing the league and the union could agree to. In dueling news conferences over the past few days, Manfred and union chief Tony Clark have made it clear they have radically diverging views on the necessity for stronger reforms. And Manfred, in particular, made it clear this is an area he sees as being worth fighting for — threatening to use unilateral powers to make changes beginning in 2018.

“I have great respect for the labor-relations process,” Manfred said. “. . . But I have to admit I’m disappointed we could not even get the MLBPA to agree to even modest rule changes,” such as pitch clocks to force pitchers to work faster and a limit on trips to the mound.

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