|I fear for Richard Garces.
In another attempt to reduce the length of games, baseball's official clockwatchers quietly introduced a new rule last week requiring relief pitchers to complete their warmup tosses within two minutes.
Baseball slipped this rule in as quietly as a Montreal homestand, so quickly that it caught several relievers and managers off-guard when umpires enforced the rule by limiting the number of warmup pitches from the customary eight. Umpires gave new Yankees reliever Jay Witasick only four warmup pitches Monday night after manager Joe Torre wasted precious seconds introducing the pitcher to his teammates.
"Another reason baseball is shooting itself in the foot," Torre griped.
Now, any rule that irritates the Yankees is a good rule by me. Those guys waste more time than any other team in the majors. I can get to the front of the line at the DMV faster than Chuck Knoblauch can get himself into the batters box.
So, I heartily approve this rule and hope it's more successful than previous time-saving attempts, which usually added approximately three minutes to the average time of games.
|The Sox are signaling for Rich Garces ... quick, call the bullpen cart.|
At the same time, though, I worry what it might mean for some of baseball's -- how shall I put this? -- speed-challenged relievers. Such as our man Garces. Poor El Guapo. Watching him trudge in from the bullpen, I always keep waiting for the sherpas to greet him with oxygen tanks at the infield dirt.
To expect Guapo to reach the mound and complete his warmup tosses in less time than it takes to sing "Take Me out to the Ballgame" -- especially when
he's pitching in Seattle where the bullpens are located just beyond the horizon -- all I can say is baseball better have the paramedics ready at the mound and the lawyers preparing their briefs for another Supreme Court challenge.
What will be interesting to see is the methods teams employ to circumvent the rule. For one thing, the two-minute clock doesn't start ticking until the pitcher steps into fair territory. In stadiums such as the Metrodome, where the bullpens are located along the foul lines, this means we'll see relievers stay outside the lines until they're at home plate, avoiding fair territory as scrupulously as a sportswriter avoids the dinner check.
||The two-minute clock doesn't start ticking until the pitcher steps into fair territory. In stadiums such as the Metrodome, where the bullpens are located along the foul lines, this means we'll see relievers stay outside the lines until they're at home plate, avoiding fair territory as scrupulously as a sportswriter avoids the dinner check.
Other teams will counter by moving their bullpens to the on-deck circle. The Red Sox will demand that Boston taxpayers build them a new Fenway Park with
bullpens located directly underneath the pitchers mound. George Steinbrenner will simply hire Bela Karolyi to carry Mariano Rivera to the mound.
The most dreaded prospect of all? The return of the bullpen cart, the AMC Pacer of sports transport.
The purpose of the bullpen cart was to rush a reliever to the mound, keeping him as tanned and rested for the game as a Soviet dictator. Unfortunately, the top cruising speed of the carts was approximately that of Edgar Martinez, so a pitching change was a bit like watching Al Cowlings drive O.J. down the Los Angeles freeway. By the time the old bullpen coach actually found the keys and the pitcher finally reached the mound, even old
Lee Arthur Smith, who was only slightly faster than Miss Jane Pittman, could have walked in, pitched a scoreless ninth inning, attacked the postgame
spread and filed his income taxes.
The bullpen cart fad reached its nadir when the Mariners customized theirs in the shape of a tugboat. The pitchers were so embarrassed by its appearance that they refused to ride in it, so they would trot to the mound with the tugboat following behind in slow pursuit. (After enduring sights like that, it's no wonder Seattle fans are feeling a little giddy about the team's record this summer.)
Of course, today's bullpen carts would be nothing like those of the past. They would be bullpen SUVs large enough to hold a family of eight, with leather seats, cupholders in the front seat, DVD monitors in the backseat and a fuel efficiency slightly less than a Jupiter rocket. I think Vice President Dick Cheney is already encouraging Detroit to rush some of these coal-burning beauties onto the production line.
I just hope they're large enough to hold El Guapo.
Jim Caple is a senior writer for ESPN.com. Send this story to a friend | Most sent stories
|The Yankees will definitely find a way to get Mariano Rivera to the hill.||