Seeking speedier games, baseball tweaks tradition

It instantaneously solidified its place in baseball lore.

On what was supposed to be the first of four intentional balls, Baltimore Orioles pitcher Todd Williams was unable to float one far enough from Miguel Cabrera. The slugger flipped a flare into right-center field for a go-ahead RBI single in the tenth inning of an eventual 8-5 Florida Marlins win on June 22, 2006.

Such an occurrence has happened many times in MLB history, but this one stands head and shoulders above the rest.

All, though, may become things of the past.

On February 21, the league announced its intention to push forward a rule change, allowing managers the ability to intentionally walk a batter using the simple act of signaling from the dugout. It is part of a three-pronged adjustment to the handling of pitchers meant to speed up play.

Changes will also include an alteration of the official strike zone — which, for all intents and purposes, has not been used by umpires for several decades — a stricter adherence to the pitch clock, and limiting the amount of allowed visits to the pitcher’s mound.

In order for these changes to be implemented prior to the 2017 season, the MLBPA would need to vote in favor of the changes. If a union vote does not approve of the changes, the league will be able put the rule changes in place without union approval at the start of the 2018 season.


Kalama Hines is SFBay’s Oakland Athletics beat writer. Follow @SFBay and @HineSight_2020 on Twitter and at SFBay.ca for full coverage of A’s baseball.