(Image Credit USAToday.com)
“The law of unintended consequences, often cited but rarely defined, is that actions of people – and especially of government – always have effects that are unanticipated or unintended. Economists and other social scientists have heeded its power for centuries; for just as long politicians and popular opinion have largely ignored it.” – Rob Norton, Econlib.org
According to most accounts the first, most thorough analysis of the concept of unintended consequences was conducted in 1936 by an American sociologist named Robert K. Merton. He identified five types best described off-the-top as true ignorance, flat-out error, willful ignorance, values and self-defeating predictions (self-fulfilling prophecies).
Last October I wrote a post warning Major League Baseball might be inclined to change the way all of baseball is played because of but one play – Chase Utley’s “slide” into second base to break up a double play in the MLB post-season that resulted in a broken leg for Ruben Tejada. I feared they would overreact and do something stupid…surely introducing unintended consequences.
I was wrong.
They did multiple things stupid…just as they did when they took away the ability of catchers to block the plate and runners trying to dislodge a baseball from said catchers a couple of years ago.
For some reason baseball – accused for a century of not changing anything – is now seemingly willing to change just about everything.
It might have been acceptable if TPTB (The Powers That Be) just left it at clarifying what a “bona fide attempt to reach and remain on the base” is…which is in part what they did. But they also now have made the very attempt of breaking up a double play a play subject to video review.
I can’t wait for all the side-by-side shots of plays where interference is called in games…and when it is not.
But we’re just getting started here.
TPTB in MLB essentially eliminated the “neighborhood play,” a fancy way of saying a middle infielder didn’t have to have their foot on second base while in possession of the ball to get an out call before attempting a double play. Middle infielders now have to have the ball and their foot on second base to record an out. Umpires have always given the middle infielder “credit” when a runner is approaching and not enforced making a “true out.” Look, it wasn’t my idea this became OK but it is how the game has been played for…ever. The rule book was “called out” at second base a long time ago. That doesn’t make it right…but it has been deemed right for as long as everyone in the sport now has been in the sport.
Geez, try to find a majority of umpires still, in 2016, who have the same strike zone. That ambiguity has seemed to be OK with everyone for…ever. (I just thought I’d throw that in…)
Oh…and it’s just piling on that TPTB have also now made the elimination of the “neighborhood play” a play subject to video review.
So let’s review…
We had a dirty slide at second base during an attempt for a double play occur in a playoff game last season and as a result…the definition of a legitimate slide has been expanded…those slides are now subject to a stoppage of play and a video review…middle infielders who are supposedly now being protected from illegal slides now have to keep a foot planted on the base with the ball to be credited for an out before even attempting a double play…those outs are now subject to a stoppage of play and a video review.
“We’re making a slide rule that keeps you on the bag. You’ve got to be near the bag. And now we’re making a decision on the neighborhood play that you’ve got to stay on the bag. You know what that’s going to mean? Someone is going to get their clocks cleaned.” – Terry Collins, New York Mets Manager
“It’s hard, man. Change is hard. We’ve been playing this game for a long time under a certain set of rules. And these changes just feel awkward. I kind of feel like I knew how to play the game. And now we have to change that.” – Chase Headley, New York Yankees Third Baseman
In the interest of fairness there certainly have been those in baseball quoted either taking a wait-and-see approach or have already come out in full support of the changes stating anything that enhances the safety of players can’t be a bad thing…safety comes first, etc. I’m all for safety too. Really I am.
But as I said when the play-at-the-plate changes were first made all baseball had to do was enforce the rules they already had in place. These changes are even more extraordinary and certainly were not vetted properly.
I should add at the same time these changes were announced TPTB at MLB laughingly created two ways to speed up games by limiting coaching visit times on the mound while also shortening break times between innings. Great ideas both…but those sliding/double play replays will negate that effort.
No, I suspect they were simply motivated to make a token effort to cover all their bases regarding the law of unintended consequences…when they simple-mindedly chose to rewrite the law…on how to get to second base.