Russell Martin Rips MLB's Intentional Walk Rule Change

Adam Wells@adamwells1985Featured ColumnistFebruary 22, 2017

Toronto Blue Jays' Russell Martin waits to bat during the fourth inning of a baseball game against the Los Angeles Angels in Anaheim, Calif., Thursday, Sept. 15, 2016. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)
Chris Carlson/Associated Press

Major League Baseball and the Players' Association found a common ground on changing the rules for an intentional walk in 2017, with ESPN's Howard Bryant reporting on Tuesday the free pass will be issued with the use of a signal from the dugout. 

Toronto Blue Jays catcher Russell Martin is one of those in the MLBPA who does not like changing this particular rule, per Shi Davidi of SportsNet.ca:

By no means are intentional walks automatic, until now. Now they are. So they’re speeding up the game. My thing is, if they really want to speed up the game, then when a guy hits a home run, to speed up the game should a guy, just like in softball, when he hits it, should he just walk to the dugout? It’d be quicker. I’m just wondering, at what point do we just keep the game, the game? Or, how about this calculation: take all the intentional walks that were made in the last couple years and calculate – or maybe just ask to see if they have that information, to see if they really did their homework. Is it really that important to speed up the game (with this rule)? Because how many games did we play last year where we didn't have one intentional walk? That’s something I’d like to know.

Davidi did the math, discovering there were a total of 932 intentional walks across the 2,427 MLB games last season. That total works out to just shy of one intentional walk every 2.6 games.

As an explanation for changing the rule, per a report from ESPN.com and the Associated Press, MLB felt "the practice of lobbing four meaningless pitches (was) antiquated."

Managers who spoke to the AP and ESPN didn't seem to think the change was a big deal. Terry Francona of the Cleveland Indians said he was "OK" with trying to cut out some of the unnecessary time to games. 

Joe Girardi of the New York Yankees said he doesn't "think that's a big deal" and the change won't impact strategy being used in games. 

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MLB commissioner Rob Manfred has made pace of play a key part of his platform. He had also proposed changing the strike zone, limiting trips to the mound and installing pitch clocks, but the union vetoed those ideas, per a separate report from the AP and ESPN.

Even though Martin doesn't like changing the rules for an intentional walk, it's not a substantial change to the game that will drastically alter his job as the Blue Jays catcher. 

If teams can still put a runner on first base and the game moves quicker as a result, there's nothing negative that can be said about the switch. 


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