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The Manfred Man(n) is here to stay
We gave it a good name, but the rule still sucks. What about the new ones?
Major League Baseball codified its new rules for 2023 at a meeting of the MLB Rules Committee—and probably the Faber College Greek Senate.
In addition to things like the bigger bases, a ban on shifts, limits on pickoff throws and a pitch clock, they are making the automatic runner on second to start every extra half inning permanent.
And no, editor at The Athletic, it is not a ghost runner1.
Ghost runners are imaginary and as kids we used them when we didn’t have enough players to run the bases. The automatic runner is very real. Unfortunately, even when it’s David Bote or Nick Madrigal it’s real. Hell, it’s the only way Bote ever gets on base.
But as you and I know, there’s already a name for it that’s far better than “automatic runner.”
This rule was the brainchild of somebody in MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred’s office to try to shorten games during the 2020 pandemic season. It’s not a new idea. Softball’s been using something like it for years.
But because of the origin of the MLB version, I named it the Manfred Man(n).
Like their song above, written by Bruce Springsteen, the name’s kinda catchy!
And if you’re singing along, you’re probably doing it wrong.
Jim Deshaies and Boog Sciambi use “Manfred Man(n)” to describe the automatic runner all the time, and I’m sure that since I’m beloved by their employers, that any time now they’ll start crediting me for it on air.
But it’s not just them. Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports and The Athletic calls it that.
YES Network’s Michael Kay calls it the Manfred Man(n).
We even got Jason Benetti to do it, and I’m sure Len Kasper would if he hadn’t retired from broadcasting in 2021.
Our buddy Wayne Randazzo, now the new TV voice of the Angels, called it that when he did Mets games last year.
So, you ask with rapt attention, do I have clever names for any of the new rules?
I think the obvious one is to name the limits on pickup throws to first after Jon Lester. He managed to turn his mental block over those throws into a weapon and somehow held runners better than guys who were actually willing to throw.
And, on occasion, he did this:
“That’s alright. It’s worth it.” Sure it is, Tim. Way to show the Cubs by getting picked off.
OK, about the new rules.
We could name the bigger bases after Ronny Cedeno. After all if he’d had them in 2007 maybe he wouldn’t have been thrown out at second base on a walk.
In April game against the Cardinals, with one out in the ninth and Cubs down 2-1, Mark DeRosa singled and Lou Piniella put Ronny in to run for him. On a full count, Ronny was running and the pitch was ball four.
Ronny’s momentum on the slide took him past the bag. Yadi threw to second in case it was strike three, trying to get a double play to end the game. Little David Eckstein put the tag on Ronny as his foot came off, and after much discussion amongst the crew, home plate umpire Roscoe, Illinois’ Larry Young called Ronny out.
Now, that’s pretty inexcusable. But what if Ronny were just a victim of circumstance? The batter who walked was Jock Jones. How the hell was Ronny supposed to know Jock wasn’t going to just swing from his ass and strike out like usual?
Seems like bad luck for Ronny that Jock picked that at bat to walk for the first time all season. Just kidding that was Jock’s fourth walk of the year.
What about the new pitch clock? Pitchers have 15 seconds between pitches when there’s no one on base, 20 when someone is. If they don’t pitch in time it’s a ball.
So, the temptation is to name it after Steve Trachsel. If you never had the “pleasure” of watching him pitch, consider yourself lucky. Steve was a good pitcher every other year. He pitched the first seven years of his career for the Cubs and he was 0-2, 7-13, 8-12, and 8-18 in the odd numbered seasons, and 9-7, 13-9, and 15-8 in the even numbered seasons. He returned late in 2007 to “help” the Cubs’ playoff push and was 1-3 with an 8.31 ERA.
But he’s even better known for taking about four minutes between every pitch. It was agony.
He pitched the 1998 play-in game for the Cubs against the Giants, and he was throwing a no-hitter with one out in the seventh, and nobody noticed because he was taking a month between pitches. Oh, and because he walked four guys.
But we can do better than Trachs. The pitch clock is for hitters, too. If a batter isn’t ready to hit before the clock expires it’s an automatic strike.
So, I say we name it after a former Cub, but we name it after a batter who took for fucking ever because he loved the sound of velcro so much.
Nomar led the league in batting twice, and OCD every season.
So, what about the shift? That’s the rule that’s going to get all of the attention this year. A former Cubs manager and broadcaster is credited with inventing the shift way back in 1946. Lou Boudreau was player managing the Indians at the time, and he got tired of Ted Williams blasting balls past the second baseman, so he came up with this.
You would think that Ted Williams, the greatest hitter of all time, obliterated this shift by smacking balls through the left side until the Indians gave up and stopped doing it, right?
What if I said no?
Well, I’d be full of shit.
The legend is that Williams refused to go the other way and the shift worked.
While the Williams Shift was a good idea and worth a shot, the legends are wrong. Ted took one look at all those guys on the right side of the field and said, “Fuck it. There are plenty of hits on the other side.”
He went 2-for-5 the first day with a double to left field and 2-for-5 again the next with a bunt single that rolled to where the third baseman should have been.
Seems fitting that a much ballyhooed strategic maneuver held a career .344 hitter to a .400 average. Great job, Good Kid.
So, should we name it after Lou or after the Cubs player most impacted by it in its recent iteration?
The Cubs somehow put together a six minute video a few years ago of our Large Adult Son, Kyle Schwarber beating the shift. Honestly, it must have included every time he did it over the course of six seasons in Chicago. Because mostly I just remember him homering or grounding out to the shortstop in short right field.
Oh, yeah. And this.
That was pretty important.
So, we’ve named four new rules and found a way to tie the Cubs in to all four of them.
Ernie Banks, Billy Williams, Ron Santo and Fergie Jenkins all have statues.
But now Jon Lester, Ronny Cedeno, Nomar Garciaparra and Kyle Schwarber have rules named after them. Seems even more prestigious. Congrats, guys.
You know, I think we’ve done good work here today, gang. Knock off early and have a few beers to celebrate.
What, it’s 8:30 in the morning? Well, wait a couple hours and then get an early start on the weekend.
Wait, it’s only Tuesday?
That place has really gone downhill since they canned their hilarious and very handsome Monday morning Cubs columnist.