February 19, 2007
It's the first time since 1996 that the official rules of Major League Baseball have been altered. As of this season, a player who scuffs or defaces the ball will receive a ten-game suspension, but umpires have discretion over applying this to pitchers. There are also new provisions to minimize the possibility of a tie ball game, which are exceedingly rare anyway. In addition, players will not be allowed to step into the dugout to catch foul balls; that change is overdue, I think. What caught my attention was this measure to speed up the pace of play: If there are no runners on base, a pitcher must pitch the ball within 12 seconds. Wow! See ESPN. In the interests of speed, I favor calling every other throw by the pitcher to first base a ball, and every other time a batter steps out of the batter's box a strike.
Ron Belliard has agreed to a $750,000 minor league contract with the Washington Nationals, adding depth to their infield. He played second base for the Cardinals last year, but seems to have had some personal problems during the offseason. See ESPN.