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|Sorry, Andy. Your famed pick-off move is illegal.|
Who is Matt Meyers, you ask? He's a baseball editor at The Mag, and he's had it up to here with the way balks are called. He's not wrong. It's the most inconsistently applied rule in all of sports, especially when a lefthander is on the mound.
The MLB rule book is clear. "If there is a runner, or runners, it is a balk ... when the pitcher, while touching his plate, fails to step directly toward a base before throwing to that base ... the purpose of the balk rule is to prevent the pitcher from deliberately deceiving the baserunner." Yet, over and over, lefties step halfway toward home before throwing to first. (Yes, Andy Pettitte, we're looking at you.)
So we're backing Meyers and drawing a literal line in the sand -- specifically, a visible one from the middle of the rubber toward the first base dugout at a 45 degree angle. Chalk is messy, so we're advocating for something like the pitching rubber itself. If a lefty touches that line with his front foot on a toss to first, it's a balk.
Don't laugh. This proposal has the support of baseball's most notorious stickler, Orioles manager Buck Showalter. "Anything that makes something more black-and-white for the umpires, I'm in," he says.
In the end, though, this isn't about upholding rules as much as it is about opening up the running game, which hasn't been the same since the steroids era. Some folks say Rickey Henderson's stolen base records are untouchable. Maybe, but shouldn't the next generation have a fair chance to run them down?
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