Baseball players have excellent memories.
A home run hit in a middle-of-June game three years ago may be forgotten by fans, but chances are the player who hit it can tell you who served it up. And the guy who threw the pitch can probably recall instantly what went wrong.
Case in point: Royals left-hander Danny Duffy doesn’t hesitate when asked about a wild pitch that allowed a run to score.
“It was 2011 in Detroit,” Duffy said.
That sort of memory also stands out because it came on an intentional walk. But that kind of mistake will never be a problem again.
A new rule this year will allow managers to signal intentional walks from the dugout, saving pitchers from throwing four balls in a row. In the Royals’ clubhouse, this is not a popular change to the game.
“I don’t like it,” starting pitcher Ian Kennedy said.
“Should we just play on PlayStation?” reliever Peter Moylan asked on Twitter.
“It doesn’t make any sense,” said Duffy.
Major League Baseball approved the rule change last month as commissioner Rob Manfred strives to quicken games. Other changes for the 2017 season are a 30-second limit for managers to challenge a play and a two-minute “guideline” for replay officials to make a call.
In 2016, the average length of a game increased by six minutes to 3 hours, 2 minutes from the previous year.
Critics point out that there were 932 intentional walks last season, which was 0.38 per game.
Duffy feels like pitchers should be required to make those four throws.
“It’s an obligation that we should all have,” Duffy said. “There are so many things that we’re trying to change up right now. It’s like slow down. I’m not trying to be rash or anything. That’s something you should be able to do.
“If you could hit a fly’s butt from 60 feet, 6 inches away, you should be able to throw a 60 mph pitch to your catcher high and wide. It’s logic.”
Of course, Duffy knows all too well that a simple toss doesn’t always go as planned. In Duffy’s case in that 2011 game, the Tigers scored a run because of his errant throw. That obviously wouldn’t have happened under the new rule.
But would that always be a good thing? What if the stakes are higher than just another regular-season game?
In a 2014 playoff series, Washington reliever Aaron Barrett was issuing an intentional walk to the Giants’ Pablo Sandoval when he tossed the ball over the head of catcher Wilson Ramos. San Francisco’s Buster Posey dashed home, but Ramos recovered in time to throw to Barrett at the plate, who tagged out Posey.
Kennedy acknowledged that playoff pressure could affect a pitcher.
“You mean to tell me that nerves don’t play a factor when you’re doing that?” he asked.
Kennedy, who issued one free pass last season and has 16 in his 10-year career, has seen pitchers struggle against the batter they face after an intentional walk.
While it’s a soft toss to a catcher, that can affect a pitcher’s release point when he settles in to face the next batter.
“I think if you watch a guy do it, (the pitch is) usually not in the right spot,” Kennedy said. “If it’s down and away from a righty, it’s usually kind of left over the plate, depending on where he was aiming before. I feel like it jacks up (facing) the next hitter, too.”
Ultimately, Kennedy acknowledged that the rule will be in effect, and that he won’t be changing the commissioner’s mind.
But Duffy, who is also concerned about talk of an altered strike zone in the future, doesn’t see why things needed to be altered.
“They’re trying to change so many things right now with the game,” Duffy said. “It’s already a healthy game.”