Sports with Patrick Townes


Rules, Rules, Rules! The world is full of rules, and they are there for a reason. This is no different in sports. Some rule changes that were made this year in baseball are here to stay in most folks’ opinions. 

The extra-inning rule where a runner begins the inning on second has been a game changer and a time-saver for baseball this season. In prior years, baseball has been thinking of ways to make the games shorter. Ending the games earlier by having a runner on second during the extra inning has accomplished making the game shorter and saved pitchers from numerous extra innings. It has also made the game more exciting. Fastball has longed use the “international tie breaker” rule in games. Not only does this help complete the game but it brings real strategy and the need for execution in order to be successful. Not surprisingly, there have not been many bunts in the major leagues to move the player over. Players will not even bunt when they are afforded a free base when the defenders play in a shifted position. Because games are being ended quicker, this rule is likely here to stay. 

Another rule that was implemented is the minimum batters faced for relief pitchers. Unless an inning is ended, a relief pitcher must pitch to at least three batters. This cuts down on pitching changes during an inning, and also requires managers to think more ahead as to who they put in to pitch. It always makes the managers deliberate more how they craft their lineup.  It is now more important to shape your lineup with a mix of left and right handed batters. This is an area of strength for the Blue Jays compared to other years where their lineup was dominated by right handed hitters. This rule is likely also here to stay. The major thing that was implemented prior to this year was a pitch clock on the pitcher to also speed up the game.

To DH or not to DH? This rule is a tough one. Common sense tells us that it makes really no sense at all to have a DH in one league and no DH in another league. Over an entire career, it would be interesting to see the detailed statistics of how many more strikeouts a pitcher has in the National League due to facing the opposing team’s pitcher between two and three times a night. Not having a DH at the end of the day is embarrassing to the pitchers who are, in most cases, an automatic out. Baseball wants more homeruns, and this is a certain way to help increase these numbers. The American League ERA is usually 0.30 higher than the National League because they face a DH instead of the opposing pitcher. This rule is also likely here to stay. 

The above rule changes were primarily implemented due to a shortened season, but after using them in real games, it is likely that they will be in the game for the long run. Now onto the unwritten rules of baseball. These are tough to administer and judge, but one thing should be made clear, they do not apply to professional sports. 

Professional athletes get paid on a performance basis. Asking someone not to hit a homerun or give outs away is like asking a banker not to make too much money, a construction worker not to work at a pace higher than anyone else, a doctor seeing more patients in a day than another.  It is amazing to know that down 10 runs a team will still play the shift on defence and get mad at someone bunting. If you do not want them to bunt or you think the game is over, do not play the shift. If you are losing big, do not let the count get to 3-0 before throwing a ball right down the middle and getting smashed over the fence. Not to mention, teams are trying to weaken the opponents pitching staff before they have to face them the next day or the day after. It is professional sports. It is a job, and there should be no whining or commenting on the lack of respect for the unwritten rules of baseball (or another sport). At the end of the day, forget the bad game and move into the next. Each day comes with a fresh score. 

For those who play amateur sports, and for seasoned veterans on the ball field, you usually can tell when a game is out of reach and it is time to play station to station. But at the same time, I can remember back to games where huge leads were given up and the game was lost due to taking the foot off the gas pedal. Likely the best thing to do is to play the game out, knowing that throughout your career you will may be on the winning “big” side just as much as the losing “big” side? That’s sports. 

A couple of bad innings for the Yankees pitchers in Buffalo and they are complaining about the lights and the Blue Jays stealing signs. Sounds like a team that is quickly falling in the standings after having high expectations for this season. To be fair, they are dealing with injuries to star players this season. The Blue Jays are surviving and winning close games. 

There have been some questions on how the team has used their pitchers this season -- specifically regarding the length the starting pitchers have been going in games. There are some advantages of taking starters out of the game early, such as not seeing the opposing batters more than twice in a game. However, time and time again, Buck and Dan will mention how over-worked the bullpen is getting. It is time to stretch out the starters a little bit more. Tanner Roark was removed from a start against the Yankees after only four innings and two times through the lineup, and he voiced his displeasure over the radio. He may be right, but he should only make these comments in the manager’s office, in private. He does have the highest earned run average on the team and that likely assisted in the decision to pull him early from the start. The Jays eventually lost that game. Pitchers like Roark have to remember one thing -- that the manager who removed him from the game is the same manager who decides who to pitch the next games. With a deep pitching rotation, if he is not careful, he may find himself on the outside looking in. 

Overall, the coaching on the Blue Jays needs to get a little more forceful.  There have been way too many base running blunders over the past two weeks. When you thought they got all of the mistakes out of their system, they just kept coming. These are huge plays that give momentum back to the other team. Players need to start sitting innings or being pulled from games for not making a full effort or making mistakes (continually) on the bases. For those that think it is good that the team is being aggressive, this base running goes well beyond and is simply careless.