JAY DUNN: MLB’s new rules are working, but, Mr. Commissioner, let’s keep the changes based in reality (2023)

You’re forgiven if you haven’t heard of the “double hook” rule.

Or the “designated runner” rule.

Or the “single disengagement” rule.

Unless you’ve attended at least one Atlantic League game this year you probably haven’t heard of any of those schemes. Even if you have, there’s a pretty good chance that you don’t understand how they work.


The double hook rule states that if a team removes its starting pitcher before the end of the fifth inning it must also remove its designated hitter and it will have no further use of the DH rule for the remainder of the game.

The designated runner rule permits a team to choose a player who is not in the starting lineup to be a permanent substitute on the bases. He can replace any runner at any time and the runner who is replaced will be eligible to remain in the game. Moreover, the player utilized as the designated runner remains an eligible bench option if his manager wants to use him as a pinch hitter or defensive replacement.

The single disengagement rule is a stricter variation of the rule introduced in the major leagues this season. A pitcher is permitted one pickoff attempt (or bluff to a base) per at bat. If he attempts a second one and it doesn’t result in an out, a balk will be called.

That’s how they’re playing baseball this year in the Atlantic League.

Why should we care? Here’s why:

All three of those rules were adopted by the Atlantic League at the specific request of Major League Baseball. Somebody in the Commissioner’s Office thinks these might be good additions to the major league game and asked the Atlantic League to serve as alaboratory to test them.

Frankly, I think Somebody in the Commissioner’s Office needs to have his head examined. I would consider at least two of these rules to be patently horrible. The only one that is passable — at least to me — is the single disengagement rule. The major league rule (new this year) permits two disengagements, and as far as I’m concerned it’s working just fine.

The other two innovations ought to be unceremoniously burned and the ashes dumped in the East River where they can float out to sea. Perhaps Somebody in the Commissioner’s Office can the light the fire with the same match that he used to light whatever it was he must have been smoking when he dreamed these things up. Just the thought of them becoming part of Major League Baseball …

Yipes, I can’t even finish that sentence.

Not only would the double hook rule effectively eliminate the use of an opener, but it would discourage a manager from changing pitchers when it’sclear his starteris ineffective that day. In some cases it could actually be dangerous. What if a pitcher has been struck by a batted ball or has sustained an injury in some other manner? The manager would have to decide whether or not to send the pitcher to the trainer’s room for the treatment he needs or demand that he gut it out on the mound until the end of the fifth inning.

The designated runner rule might cause a team to hire a track star who doesn’t even have to know which end of the bat his teammates grip. The team couldn’t nail starting blocks on the base paths, but it could send the track star out every time it gets runner on base. Talk about turning baseball into a track meet. Even if a team doesn’t want to utilize a roster spot for such a non-player, it can certainly lean on a speedy utility infielder or fourth outfielder to fill the role.

Is this baseball?

To me, much of baseball’s fascination centers around the fact that a successful team must excel in several diverse areas — pitching, power, speed, fielding, throwing, etc. It takes a package. Some individual players excel in more than one of these skills, but very few excel in all of them. A good manager works to put his own players in positions where they’re likely to succeed and opposing players in positions where they’re likely to fail and that sometimes entails creative manipulation. The late, great sportswriter, Red Smith, once said baseball encompasses the greatest justice in the world — when a manager wants something he has to give up something else to get it.

That was before creeping specialization began to set in. That was before somebody decided that pitchers would no longer have to hit and designated hitters would not have to field. Now it’s being proposed that catchers, first basemen and other plodders should not have to run the bases. Managers can have it all without having to make hard choices.

This is a trend that I, for one, think ought to be reversed.

Let me be clear. I am not advocating that baseball return to its past. I think the latest new rules are beneficial and others should be considered. Baseball’s fathers should be looking into new rules that put action and excitement into the game. But they should also be endeavoring to put strategic options in as well.

Take this designated runner rule. I think they’re on the right track but they surely got off at the wrong station. A ball game always comes alive when a speedster with base stealing ability gets on base. A rule that causes that to happen more frequently might improve the game. But “more frequently” should not mean every time possible.

What if a manager were allowed to list a “designated runner” when he submits his lineup card at the outset of the game? It would be a player who is not part of his batting order who would be allowed to pinch run twice in the game in two separate innings. The manager would have to calculate the best times to use this player.

This would add both excitement and intrigue to the game.

You know what? A similar rule could be adopted pertaining to the designated hitter. Instead of being part of the batting order he could be an additional player entitled to bat twice, in two separate innings. That would preserve the concept of the DH but force the skipper to pick the right spots. Armchair managers and other second-guessers would have a field day.

It would be fun for all us, uh, wouldn’t Mr. Someone in the Commissioner’s Office?

A FEW STATISTICS(Wednesday’s games not included):No starting pitcher has ever hit for the cycle in a major leaguegame,but the Angels’ Shohei Ohtani has come close twice this year in only nine starts. On Monday he went four-for-five with two singles, a triple and a home run … Speaking of cycles, a Tigers farmhand named Colt Keith not only hit for the cycle Tuesday in a Double-A game but added a second homer and a second single to wind up with six-hits … The five AL East teams collectively have posted a 92-48 record (.613) against outside competition. All five teams have winning records … The Braves have scored 222 runs. Ronald Acuna (38) and Matt Olsen (35) together have accounted for more than 30 percent of them … The Rays have allowed only five unearned runs … Athletics rookie Estuery Ruiz leads the majors in stolen bases with 20. Last year he swiped 85 in 114 minor league games … On the negative side, Ruiz has committed five errors, which is three more than any other major league center fielder … Nick Castellanos of the Phillies is batting .420 in home games but .221 on the road. Interestingly, 12 of his 25 RBIs have come in road games … The Braves, Angels and Dodgers have yet to record a sacrifice bunt … Randy Arozarena of the Rays has hit 10 homers. Four of them have come in the first inning … Eduardo Rodriguez of the Tigers has the majors’second-bestERA (1.57). That lowers his career mark to 4.02 … The Padres are 0-4 inextra-inninggames … Cubs starters are 14-11 but their bullpen is 5-12 … Logan Webb of the Giants leads the majors in innings pitched (59) and batters faced (235). Nevertheless, his record is 3-5 … On Monday the Cardinals beat the Brewers, 18-1. It had been 99 years since they won a home game by such a wide margin.

Former Hall of Fame voter Jay Dunn has written baseball for The Trentonian for 55 years. Contact him atjaydunn8@aol.com.

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