The End Of An Era: Third-To-First Fake Pickoff Is Now Officially A Balk


baseballLike a professional wrestler hitting his opponent with brass knuckles behind the referee’s back, the surest way to draw an angry reaction from baseball fans is to break out the old fake-to-third, throw-to-first pickoff move.

Of course, the difference is the pitcher’s intent isn’t to draw a reaction from the crowd. Often times there is real sound strategy involved, whether it’s attempting to dupe a base runner into making a mistake, a hitter into showing his hand too early, or even just buying some extra time to collect his thoughts or allow a reliever to warm up.

It really has served a purpose other than to annoy. But I guess that doesn’t change the fact the play rarely worked – you can count the successful attempts every season on one hand – and often killed the flow of a game. And that’s not to mention I’ve always felt the move fit the technical description of a balk since deception was involved.

It was with all of those factors in mind that Major League Baseball began a discussion to eliminate the “pickoff attempt” last spring. Now comes word from the New York Times’ Tyler Kepner that the change is official, and beginning this season any such attempt to fake a move toward third base will result in a balk.

Under a rule change imposed by Major League Baseball for this season, pitchers can no longer fake a pickoff throw to third base. Pitchers who did this would almost always follow by wheeling and firing to first – or to second, if a duped runner had taken off in that direction. No more.

The play is now part of baseball’s graveyard, like the bullpen cart, the Montreal Expos, pullover jerseys and World Series games in the sunshine. It simply did not work often enough to be worth the wasted time.

It may not work enough to be worth the wasted time, but as former major leaguer Jeff Nelson alludes to in the same article, it definitely kept baserunners on their toes and will now work in their favor as they no longer have to worry about the embarrassment of being tricked by the move.

“The managers say it’s all about speeding up the game,” said Nelson, now a contributor to “I think now, the runner at first might get a little bit of an advantage. All it’s used for is to keep the runner at first close. I might have done it 100 times and gotten two guys on it.”

Ah, yes, he also mentions speeding up the game. That’s another factor. But our own Kevin Kaduk made a pretty good point about that when this discussion first came up eight months ago.

Also, if it’s something that’s designed to speed up the game, it seems like a token move, at best. After all, if Bruce Chen can still throw 1o regular pickoff attempts in one at-bat, what good does getting rid of an occasional gimmick pickoff attempt do? (Outside of giving us the pleasure of yelling “BALK!” with the previously misinformed, of course?)

We’ll probably never know what the true reason for the change is. I think a lot of people would actually accept it if they just said the play was maddening, but it’s more than likely a combination of all the aforementioned factors. And perhaps it’s even done to make it look like they’re working on something while they allow issues such as instant replay to hang in the wind.

Only those who approved the change know for sure.

And to those who ask, “Why is this new on a Torah website?” Well, actually, we’re impressed you made it to the end of the article. Good reading.

Source: Big League Stew

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  1. I am truly at a loss to understand the connection between the contents of this story and charedi Judaism.

    Perhaps some gitte neshuma would take a moment to enlighten me, please?

    Thank you in advance!

  2. I’m glad to see this article posted here. If enough worldly events were posted here, we wouldn’t need to turn to CNN, EPSN etc..
    Which I belive is the purpose of these kosher media sites. Keep up the good work!

  3. Good stuff!!!
    ” And to those who ask, “Why is this new
    on a Torah website?” Well, actually,
    we’re impressed you made it to the
    end of the article. Good reading.”

  4. Think for a second id its not fit to print in a frum newspaper its not fit here too. if you cant make the judgement your mind must be in the……….

  5. Reggie Jackson has got to be one of the most overrated ball players of all time! He contributed to the regular season 0! Because he hit 3 homers in a playoff came, means nothing! He lost more games for them during the regular season & almost cost them the playoffs!

  6. How about this

    if matzav doesn’t have news on baseball and other sports then some people will go to gotish websites

    if matzav does have news on sports, people won’t like to go here anymore because it will no longer be “the online voice of torah jewry”

    maybe make a different section for those who will otherwise go to a website not befitting for a yid.
    those who don’t want to see it, will simply keep to the regular news section

    any opinions?

  7. Forgive me, since I don’t really follow sports, but it would seem that most sports stories here are about baseball. Is baseball a more “kosher” sport than the others?