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End the balk rule now

Oh what a tangled web we weave When first we practice to deceive!

Leon Halip


Deception in sports is bad -- especially baseball.

That's why a manager always sends a note to his adversary notifying him, with plenty of time to act, that a steal is coming on the next play. Likewise, a batter is allowed to file a formal protest if the catcher does not provide him with accurate data about the type, speed and location of the upcoming pitch. Outfielders never fake out baserunners by pretending they're about to make the catch -- or that they're going to whiff on it entirely. And runners never make a move like they're about to advance another base, because forcing an ill-timed throw that could get away from the catcher would be terribly unsporting.

Baseball is a gentleman's game, and gentlemen do not seek to deceive. They form lines on a flat battlefield in clear view of each other. Anything else would be uncivilized.

We first learned last year that the MLB would move to ban the fake-to-third, throw-to-first move that is often employed, usually with no actual benefit to the team in the field. Now, the famed play is officially a balk. Peter Gammons, and others like him, can rejoice. Another win for the good guys: deceit has been removed from the game.

Unsurprisingly, a cabal of pitchers has not taken kindly to this move. Two Tigers right-handers in particular were not pleased.

"I'm pissed," Max Scherzer told the TigerFest crowd. If anyone has a right to be, it's Scherzer, the Tigers' star when it comes to successfully pulling off the play. He had two pickoffs in 2012, both of the fake-to-third variety.

"Any time they take anything away from pitchers, which seems to be the common thing that past 15 years, I'm opposed," added Verlander, who has picked off 19 runners for his career, generally in less deceitful methods, as he is a gentleman.

Fear not, Justin. This was in everyone's best interest. Baseball, a game run by those NFL committee members driven from the table by term-limits, has struck a victory for truth, goodness and the American Way.

Or maybe we could just ban the balk instead.

It is totally and utterly ridiculous that a sport featuring coaches pulling on their ears, touching their nose, scratching their junk, swiping their hands across their forearms and ordering a traditional ruses in an attempt to catch their opponent off guard actually bans pitchers from doing pretty much anything on the mound except throwing to first in telegraphed fashion. (That is, unless you're a left-hander. Then go on and do whatever the hell you want!)


"Blue, he had a fly on his nose. You'd twitch, too"

"Doesn't matter. That's a BALK! Runner advances."

This is how ridiculous the rule is.

Because deceit is bad, even when accidental, and even when it fools no one at all, except when it is accidental it is sometimes OK, too, maybe.

Noted as a comment in the Official Rules governing the game:

"Umpires should bear in mind that the purpose of the balk rule is to prevent the pitcher from deliberately deceiving the base runner. If there is doubt in the umpire's mind, the "intent" of the pitcher should govern." (emphasis mine)


Rule 8.05(k): "The pitcher, while touching his plate, accidentally or intentionally drops the ball" (emphasis mine)

I can come to only one conclusion: The balk rule is stupid.

Nearly every balk comes in confusion. Nearly every balk results in debate worthy of the Supreme Court. Nearly every non-balk call results announcers and fans screaming for a balk. Umpires, who should know better, cannot uniformlyenforce the rule because they barely understand it.

And, oh yes,


For these reasons, I've long hated the balk rule. It's more ridiculous than the White Sox playing baseball in shorts.

If we never see the balk rule again, baseball is a better game.