You know players and coaches are going to try and game the system. For instance, what if a player fakes an injury in order to confer with a coach? Could baseball become the new soccer?
PEORIA, Ariz. — Mel Stottlemyre Jr. is not happy right now.
The Mariners’ pitching coach doesn’t dig Major League Baseball’s latest effort to speed up pace of play.
Starting this season — whether it’s a catcher, infielder, manager or coach — teams will be allowed only six mound visits per game. And Stottlemyre, well … he doesn’t predict this ending well.
“It’s really hard for a manager to get ejected in this day and age with the replay and everything, but this could cause a few more,” Stottlemyre said. “Without naming certain managers, I would think there could be some tension. Bring Lou Piniella back and try introducing this rule.”
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Stottlemyre argues that with all the sign-stealing pervading baseball, it’s necessary for coaches to run out and help a pitcher adjust. He’s excited about testing the rule and wonders if the umps are really going to enforce it.
His displeasure is understandable given how this limit removes some of his in-game influence. But for fans? Come on — this is a great idea.
The Mariners aren’t terrible offenders when it comes to excessive mound visiting, but other teams are. These consultations are even more prevalent in the postseason, when catchers meet their Fitbit goals in a matter of minutes.
As CBS Sports’ Matt Snyder pointed out, the Dodgers had a mound visit before every hitter in the eighth inning during Game 1 of the 2016 NLCS. That’s basically drinking-game frequency.
So this is a welcome change if we’re talking about general fans. In fact, it’s a welcome change if we’re talking about general managers, too.
“I think it’s a good thing. I’m a big proponent of pace of play,” said Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto, a former pitcher who got annoyed whenever a coach would amble out to him on the hill. “In terms of visiting the mound — it’s dead time that nobody wants to see.”
A few points: Pitching changes do not count as official mound visits. Nor does visiting if there is a potential injury to the pitcher. And if the pitcher and catcher are “crossed up” — meaning they aren’t on the same page signal-wise — it’s at the umpire’s discretion to allow them to sort it out (permission to approach the mound, your honor?).
It all seems pretty straightforward in theory, but you know players and coaches are going to try and game the system.
For instance, what if a player fakes an injury in order to confer with a coach? Could baseball become the new soccer? And what if someone simply ignores the umpire’s warning not to approach the mound?
As of now, there aren’t repercussions for going over the six allotted visits — the umpires are simply told to disallow any more of them.
“But what if I have a step on the umpire?” said Mariners catcher Mike Zunino, who will now need permission from the dugout to approach his pitcher. “Can I try to get to the mound before he escorts me back?”
M’s manager Scott Servais wonders if there are going to be a “Visits remaining” ticker on the scoreboard. I wonder if a manager would ever yell at an ump to create a diversion so his pitching coach could run to the mound.
As Stottlemyre said: “There’s going to be a highlight reel of ways guys will have manipulated the system.”
Which, let’s be honest … could be entertaining.
Most pitchers I spoke with don’t think this is going to be a big deal. Mariners starter Mike Leake said he doesn’t get very many visits anyway. And though James Paxton recognized that visits can help “slow the game down” for young pitchers, he agrees that certain catchers go overboard with them.
That said, mound visits happen for a reason — and they can be particularly beneficial in high-pressure situations. Seemed Seattle second baseman Robinson Cano would try to calm closer Edwin Diaz every time he took the mound.
But what if the Mariners are out of visits by the time Diaz enters the game?
“I don’t know, would he start yelling at me from second base?” wondered Diaz. “Or maybe I’ll yell at him. ‘Hey, Robbie! Tell me something!’”
In 2018, managers will treat visits the way football coaches treat timeouts. Use them when necessary, but not indiscriminately.
Obviously, not everyone in baseball is crazy about this new rule, but the game will benefit.
Bad times for pitching coaches. Good times for everyone else.