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‘Sorry you had to see this’: How baserunning has become an embarrassment in MLB

Editor’s note: From rising pranks and debates to unwritten rules to connecting with a new generation of fans and an impending labor dispute, baseball is at a crossroads. As the MLB faces these challenges, we take a look at the entire season The state of baseballwho explores the storylines that will determine what the game will look like in 2021 and well beyond.

Six years ago, in a spring training game, the Mariners had a runner at first base with an out in the eighth inning of a blowout. Andy Van Slyke, the Mariners’ first base coach, told the runner, a young minor league player, that given the score, there was no need to destroy the shortstop or second baseman in a possible double game. Instead, just peel off to the right box. Then the batter hit for the second out. The next batsman hit a floor ball deep into the hole during the shortstop. The runner on first base, who did not notice that a double play was no longer possible, did not run to second base. It peeled off to the right field. If he had kept running, he would likely have hit the throw.

Van Slyke returned to the shelter in astonishment and confusion.

“What the hell was that?!” Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon asked him.

Van Slyke just shrugged.

“I have no idea what that was,” he said. “I didn’t think I had to tell him to run for second place.”

That was another, albeit extreme, example of a field crisis baseball faces today: poor baserunning, the worst I can remember in the 41 years I’ve covered the game. Today’s players are spectacularly talented – bigger, stronger, faster and better than ever. They overwhelm the sport with their amazing physical abilities, yet too many of them have no instinct for the game. You have no feel for the game. They have less idea and understanding of how to play the game than I can ever remember. And their most egregious mistakes are made on the bases, mistakes that happen in every ballpark every night.

“Baserunning is terrible today,” said Astros manager Dusty Baker. “The two things that we have to work on the most are throwing the outfielders and baserunning. Baserunning is just terrible.”

“Baserunning is the worst thing I’ve ever seen,” said Van Slyke, who played in the Major Leagues from 1983 to 1995 and was one of the game’s best baserunners. “It started a generation ago and it’s just got worse. It’s the worst part of Major League Baseball.”

Hall of Famer Paul Molitor is perhaps the best baserunner of his era – one of the best of all time.

“The value of baserunning has gone down a bit,” he said. “I watch the game. It’s a little hard to see these days. And I understand [baserunning] constant mistakes. There are just too many times when you say to yourself, ‘What is this guy thinking about?’ “

Princeton baseball coach Scott Bradley, who played in the Major Leagues from 1984 to 1992, agreed.

“There are still some good baserunners out there, but nowhere near as many as they used to be,” he said.

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts was a great baserunner. His famous stolen base against the Yankees in Game 4 of the 2004 American League Championship Series helped the Red Sox come back from 3-0 down. Then Boston won its first World Series since 1918.

“Baserunning isn’t that valued these days,” he said. “And it’s not doing as well as it has been in years past.”

The young Kris Bryant is one of the best baserunners in the game. When asked about baserunning in the majors, he tried to suppress a laugh.

“It’s not being talked about enough,” he said. “It’s gotten a bit lazy. Baserunning is all about exertion. But we have some highlight baserunning that fill the gap for others who don’t take it seriously.”

Buck Showalter was in the major leagues for 20 years. Nobody loves the game more than he does, and nobody wants it to be played right more than he does.

“Baserunning, oh my god, I don’t know where to start,” he said. “I do a few Yankee games a month (as a broadcaster for YES Network). I see two or three baserunning errors.” [per game]. Baserunning is the ultimate in team play. If you don’t run the bases well, you are selfish. We lost the shame of the strikeout in the game. We’re losing the shame of bad baserunning. “

It’s not necessarily the players’ fault. The industry, infatuated with the fact that home runs are the single most important way to get runs in today’s game, no longer stressed baserunning as much. It didn’t teach it very well. It doesn’t pay off for great base running. Bad base running is not penalized by this. The industry has decided that the risk of getting kicked out trying to advance 90 feet is far greater than the reward for a triple home run. That was one of the philosophies of Hall of Fame manager Earl Weaver 50 years ago.

But the industry has gone too far. It took and devalued one of the most exciting and critical parts of the game. In that way, baseball has made it a slower game, one base at a time. It has become a game that can be spectacularly boring at times.

“[Former Twins manager] Tom Kelly had a conversation with [then-Yankees manager] Joe Torre 20 years ago and they agreed that, aside from pitching, they felt baserunning was the most important component of a team’s success, ”said Molitor. “We definitely got away from that. Removing an element of the game that makes up such a large part of the game’s history just doesn’t seem right. I hope we start moving backwards in that direction. “

To be fair, there are some excellent baserunners out there today. Bryant is one. Javy Baez too. So is Mike Trout.

“[Shohei] Ohtani is good, ”said Baker. “He’s checking them all [on the field], every time. “

The best could be Mookie Bettswho helped world champion Dodgers win two games in the 2020 World Series with brilliant baserunning.

The padres seem to be an exception, at least statistically, to bad base running. By June 6, they led the major leagues in stolen bases by a wide margin. They finished one to three more often than any other major league team, and they’d made fewer outs at bases – eight – than any other team, 20 times fewer than the Yankees.

“We believe that baserunning is an important part of baseball,” said manager Jayce Tingler.

It is no coincidence that the Padres 12 games are over .500.

“Every year there are a handful of games that are only baserunning won,” said Bryant.

This year the Yankees did Gleyber Torres scored from first base on an infield single. The Astros were on a heavy shift. Third base and home plate were left unattended. Torres only realized this by watching the ball and carefully circling the bases.

“It was nothing but awareness,” said Bradley. “Nobody told him or waved to him.”

This year the Padres Manny Machado broke off a double game by raising the Cardinals’ second baseman Tommy Edman with a hard, clean, legal slide halfway to second base. But we got so lost on baserunning that some people thought it was a dirty game.

“There’s nothing dirty about that,” Showalter said. “It was the ultimate baserunning game because it was team play.”

To be fair, there have been bad baserunning games throughout the ages. In 1908, in a pennant racing game, the Giants’ Fred Merkle was first base in the ninth inning when the winning run was run against the Cubs. But Merkle, at the age of 19, did not finish second because the fans stormed the field. Since it was second to be a force and he never got there safely, the Cubs appealed the game. He was called.

The Cubs eventually won the game, the pennant, and the World Series. It has always been known as the piece that gave it the nickname “Bonehead”.

In 1926, the great Babe Ruth made it to the World Series Final when he was caught trying to steal second place in a 3-2 game with Bob Meusel (a .315 hitter) on the plate.

In 1959, in Harvey Haddix’s perfect 12-inning game, Joe Adcock lost a home run in the 13th inning when he overtook Hank Aaron at the bases because Aaron thought Adcock’s walk-off home run was about to be on Wall reached, and he ran off the field.

But there are more baserunning mistakes today than ever.

“Today,” said Showalter, “baserunning is a necessary evil.”

So how bad is it? What started with the demise of baserunning? Can we put a stop sign on all of these mistakes?


Where did he go in this piece?

The mistakes don’t just happen in meaningless games in spring training. They play in the biggest games of the season.

In the fourth inning of Game 7 of the 2020 National League Championship Series, the Braves were 3-2 ahead of the Dodgers. The Braves had runners in second and third places without anyone dropping out.

Nick Markakis hit a hard ground ball to hit third baseman Justin Turner. The brave Dansby Swanson, who has an exceptionally high baseball IQ, was caught from third base.

Where did he go in this piece?

Turner caught him in a rundown and marked him with a stormy nosedive. For some reason the braves are Austin Riley, who started the game on the second base, decided to try and advance to the third. Turner threw off his back on shortstop Corey Seagerwho dumped Riley for a bizarre and debilitating double game that kept the Braves from competing in the World Series for the first time since 1999.

It was the first time a ground ball double play with runners in second and third place and no outs in a Major League game since the Mets got into a double play in July 2019. But the winner of that game didn’t make it to the World Series. That day Dodgers came back to beat the Braves 4-3. They later beat the Rays in the World Series.

“This game can’t happen,” said Braves manager Brian Snitker.

But it did.

Does Molitor clap his forehead in amazement after seeing such a bad baserunning?

“All the time,” he said. “When I was more directly involved I always thought that you could go to the postseason and bookmark about 15 games to use in a video that if those things happened they would cost team games on the biggest stage of the season . “

Several other baserunning errors appeared in the 2020 postseason, games that just can’t happen in games of this magnitude.

In game 3 of the 2020 Braves-Marlins NLDS, Atlantas Travis d’Arnaud was in third base with bases loaded and one in the second inning of a goalless game. Markakis hit a line drive to left midfield. The marlins Corey Dickerson made a tumbling, tumbling catch, then stood up. But d’Arnaud did not take part in the play; he should have hit easily.

In game 2 of the Twins-Astros series, an elimination game for the twins, Byron Buxton was sent to the pinch run in the eighth inning with the Twins behind 2-1. He was picked up at first base for the third of the inning. The Astros won 3-1 and advanced. The twins went home.

The 2021 season started embarrassingly for defending champion Dodgers. On the open day Cody Bellinger hit a drive to deep left field. Justin Turner, the runner started on the first with no outs, rounded second base and was a third of the way to third base – that’s too far, he should have stopped on second to see if the ball was caught – as the Rockies left fielder Raimel Tapia just missed making a jumping catch on the wall. The ball went over the fence for a home run. But Turner thought the ball was trapped, so he retouched second and headed back to first – his head bowed the whole time. On the way he passed Bellinger on the bases. Bellinger lost a home run and was credited with a single.

“It was a confusing game,” said Dodgers manager Dave Roberts.

Our players today, despite their talent and size, are far too often confused about the bases. In Spring 2019 practice, Yankees manager Aaron Boone instructed his players during infield drills that if the Yankees are on the field, under an infield fly rule, his outfielders should consider deliberately dropping the ball as this is the Runners could completely confuse the other team. They may not know what to do and they may run into someone else.

A few weeks later, on the opening day against the Orioles, the Yankees had runners in first and second places with one failed Gary Sanchez hit a towering popup – Infield Fly Rule, Batter is out automatically – that Orioles catcher Jesus Sucre dropped. Lukas Voit, the runner-up, was confused and started in third place – even though he had nowhere to go. He was marked out in a round down for a double game.

The next day, Boone texted the three broadcasters who were making the game on ESPN separately.

“I’m sorry you had to see this,” he wrote.

In 2017 the Phillies Odubel Herrera was in third base when the hitter went and loaded the bases. Herrera thought the bases were already loaded and headed home. If it hadn’t been for the third base coach, Juan Samuel, Herrera would have gone home for a walk.

“I watch two baseball games a day, sometimes three,” said Pete Rose, who played in the Major Leagues for 24 years. “One week this year I saw three games in which the team left the field with only two outs. How can you run the bases well if you don’t know how many outs there are?”

Apparently every night someone doubles from a base on a line drive when that runner is taught to freeze and then begins moving back to the bag until they see the ball go through the infield.

On May 23rd the cardinals have Harrison Bader opened the fourth inning with a double. Justin Williams hit a relatively smooth line drive to Cub’s second baseman Nico hornswho was playing in flat right field because of a shift. He jumped, stood up, and doubled Bader in second place.

“I hear it all the time, a guy is doubled up on a line trip and says, ‘He couldn’t do anything about it.’ Cops —!” said Showalter. “My college and high school coach would have said, ‘Where the hell are you going ?!’ you [players today] I don’t know how to freeze on a line drive and get the momentum going again. The only double-off you should ever Have is when you are on first base and a line drive is hit and the first baseman is holding the runner. That’s it. I don’t want to hear any other excuses. None. “

Apparently, every night a runner makes a bad decision whether to advance to the next base – or not to get to the next base.

On May 10, the Astros lost 5-4 to the Angels. The final of a one-run game was made as the Houstons Yuli Gurriel, who was in second base, ran on a ground ball to the third baseman Phil Gosselinthat should have made a semi-heavy throw Carlos Correa first. But Gosselin didn’t even have to throw because Gurriel had an out as third. All Gosselin had to do was reach down and mark him.

“I didn’t tell him anything, he knew he’d made a mistake,” said Baker. “And he’s one of our best baserunners. If you make that mistake in Cuba, you might not eat anything for a week. But there is no effect.” [here] for such a mistake. Nobody will take your job away from you. “

On May 2nd, the Braves’ Ozzie Albies reached base due to a throwing error by Blue Jay’s shortstop Bo Bichette. But Albies lost sight of the ball. He thought he was out, so he slowly turned into Fair Territory and went to the second base. It was signposted. Then he glared at his first base coach Eric Young for not telling him where the ball was.

On May 30, the Yankees’ Gary Sanchez hit an infield in the eighth inning. He started for second place when the ball flew past Tiger’s first baseman Jonathan Schoop, but the ball bounced straight back to Schoop. Sanchez inexplicably stopped halfway to the second, then started again, but it was too late. He made the last of the inning, four runs.

“Here’s the other part of the baserunning exercises that they don’t do anymore: every time you run to first base and run through the pocket, you hit the pocket and you have been taught to immediately look right for you Looking for a fall, “Showalter said.” Every time.

Even in a case where a player like Javy Baez of the Cubs makes a wise decision to baserunning, it shows the game’s lack of knowledge of how to operate the bases.

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Javier Baez helps the Cubs beat the pirates with a little ingenious footwork.

On May 27, Baez hit the third baseman with a ground ball with two outs and a runner. Willson Contraras, on second place. The litter drew Pirates’ first baseman Pirate Will Craig out of the bag. Baez stopped before he could be tagged and then got into a rundown between First Base and Home, which is perfectly legal.

Craig could have just marked the pocket and the inning would be over. It’s a force play! Instead, he chased Baez and then turned the ball towards the catcher Michael Perez to try to catch the runner Contreras, who slipped across the plate. Craig didn’t seem to know the rule that no run can score in this situation unless Baez safely reaches first base.

And maybe Perez didn’t know either. After hinting that Contreras was safe on the record, Baez only then ran back to the first, which he was sure to reach because he was safe as the second baseman Adam Frazier was too late to cover the bag. It was a comedy of mistakes, one of the stupidest pieces in baseball history.

Unfortunately, it confused so many players.

“I learned something from this piece,” said Kris Bryant. “I didn’t know the rule.”

On Friday, the Phillies were 2-1 behind the Nationals in the bottom of the ninth inning. Rhys Hoskins hit a leadoff double. Travis Jankowski Pinch ran towards him. A 2-2 pitch too J.T. Realmuto was easily pegged by Nationals Catcher Alex Avilawho never lost control of the ball. With no outs – where did he go on this piece? – Jankowski was caught by second base. Avila ran straight towards him and ended up tagging him for an exceptionally strange catcher unassisted. Avila played a very smart game, but it was helped by a terrible baserunning from Jankowski. The Phillies lost the game 2-1.

And then, on Tuesday, in the first inning against the Dodgers, the Pirates’ Ke’Bryan Hayes Hit a line, drive down the right field line for a home run. Hayes wasn’t sure it would go out so he ran as hard as he could first. In his rush, he missed first base. The Dodgers appealed and Hayes was called. Instead of a home run, he was credited with a flyout to the pitcher in play-by-play.

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The pirates’ third baseman, Ke’Bryan Hayes, gets his home run called back for not stepping on first base.

“Ke ‘was obviously caught watching the ball,” said Pirates manager Derek Shelton.

Obviously.

Baserunners have to learn a lot, about rules, about cutting a bag, about anticipating. They’re so athletic and so fast that they should run the bases better than any other era in history. Still, it’s fair to say we don’t have nearly as many great baserunners as we used to. We have few who can compare to Jackie Robinson, Willie Mays, Molitor, Robin Yount, Cal Ripken Jr., Rickey Henderson, Don Baylor, Phil Bradley, Larry Walker, Don Mattingly, and Scott Rolen.

“Baserunning is an art and a skill,” said Van Slyke. “It takes time and effort to make it important. But it doesn’t matter today because nobody cares about baserunning.”


Why run when you can jog?

Part of the blame for bad base running nowadays always goes where part of the blame is always fair or unfair – analytics.

“It’s the three outcomes: walks, strikeouts and home runs,” said Jim Palmer, pitcher of the Hall of Fame. “Boys don’t come to the base that often. They are not used to running the bases. And they don’t think it’s important. But it is. They think they can make up for that with home runs.”

The numbers prove it. In 1980 there were more stolen bases per game than home runs per game, 1.56 to 1.47. There were 0.51 triples per game. In 2000 things had changed dramatically. There were 2.34 homers per game, 1.2 steals per game and 0.39 triples per game.

In 2020 they had changed dramatically again: 2.57 homers per game, 0.99 steals per game and 0.27 triples per game, the lowest rate in any season in history. So 40 years ago there were more steals than homers per game. Now there are almost three times as many homers as there are steals per game. And while stolen bases are only a small part of baserunning, it shows how much the game is about power and punching, not running.

“We’re going back to the shelter [a strikeout] today and circling the bases [a home run] more than ever before, ”said Van Slyke. “The emphasis on exit speed and angle of fire eliminated the nuances of the game. You blew up the equation in base running. “

Molitor quickly recognizes one of the problems.

“We have all of these formulas to get runs,” he said. “But it’s an art to get runs. And part of that art is knowing where you’re going 90 feet, be it a pass, a ball in the dirt, or a missed relay. Leaving 90 feet out too often “It’s going to affect your chances of winning. We’ve rethought the value of an outs and where those outs should be coming from, probably by mistake. If you lose too many outs due to calculated risks on the bases, it’s losing that will cost you. The number.” of singles has declined. Do you have as good a chance of scoring a goal from first place as you did from second? In a way … “

In a way, yes. And that’s a problem.

And what about the additional base?

“One of the most important things in baseball is getting from first to third on a base hit and knowing when to leave,” said Bradley. “It goes back to Branch Rickey’s theory: the best baserunners walk two bases at the same time. When you’re first on the court, you should think about going third first. Now if you are in first, wait You to see if the guy hits a homer. Then you can go jogging. “

It’s also about perception.

“Baserunning isn’t cool [to today’s players]“Said Showalter. “They think, ‘Who cares? Nobody steals bases anymore. You meet a homer, I trot home If you meet a single, I’ll trot 90 feet. “

There is too much jogging and too much trotting in today’s game.

“Good base running is all about exertion. It’s a favorite of mine, ”said Bryant. “If you don’t run hard to beat a double play grounder, it doesn’t look good. It’s so easy to run as hard as you can for four seconds. My dad always reminded me that baseball is tough, you get frustrated when you go out, so you take out your aggression by running as hard as you can. I accepted that. I’ve been on my way, I’m so mad, I’m running as hard as I can to run base first. Now we have fans again who watch us play. You don’t want to chase it all the way to first base on a double play, someone jiggles a ball and they still get the double play. You’re knocking out double play and it could be a big run in the game. “

Bryant was taught well. But we stopped teaching players the intricacies of baserunning.

“[Some players] Look at you like you have two heads when you talk about baserunning, ”Showalter said. “My last year [2018, as the manager] in Baltimore we had a young player. We talked about delayed theft. He had no idea what I was talking about. “

Our trainers and instructors are different today. Many of them didn’t play in the big leagues. Some didn’t play professionally. Some did not play collegially. Some didn’t play at all.

“It has to be taught,” said Baker, “but the guys who can teach it are no longer in the game … Vince Coleman, guys like that.”

Nobody taught the game, especially baserunning, better than the late George Kissell. He was a player, manager, coach, scout, instructor and mentor for the Cardinals for 59 years.

“I never talk about my career – never – but I was a great baserunner because it was important to me,” said Van Slyke. “George Kissell taught me how to be interested in baserunning. He kept telling me: 90 feet is really important, 90 feet are essential in his game – 90 feet, 90 feet, 90 feet. “

Showalter is a great baserunning instructor.

“We were taught to hit the sack with our left foot and cross with our right foot,” he said. “Well these guys hit the sack with the wrong foot. Hit your left foot, it’s half a step. Today’s players have no idea what you’re talking about. We used to have a guy who did the first one Base stood, and if you hit the sack with the wrong foot, it would hit you with a mushroom. “

Nobody thinks ahead today, said Van Slyke.

“You have to think about the nearest base first,” he said. “But players today don’t think two and three bases in advance. They don’t expect. They don’t ask, ‘What do I do if it is hit soft? What do I do if it is hit hard? Good arm or bad arm? ‘ Those are the questions, the nuances that have to be asked before the ball is thrown. But today’s player waits for the ball to be hit, then he decides. Too many of our players think after the ball, ‘How am I? Do you want to party when I get to the third base? ‘”

Another big change in the game is the guidance, advice from experienced players.

“When I was a young Yankees player, Don Baylor was on our team. He was a great baserunner,” said Bradley. “If there was a ball that he might think you could get into third place or double-on first, he would let you know when you were back in the dugout. He said, ‘What got you looked at you? Did you see where the guy played you? ‘”

Being a great baserunner has to do with instinct, feeling and anticipation.

“Speed ​​is important, but not a requirement,” said Molitor.

Rolen ran pretty well, but he was a great baserunner. Mattingly did pretty well, but he was an exceptional baserunner. The concern in the game is if a player doesn’t have instincts at the bases by the age of 27, will they ever have them?

“I think you don’t stand a chance of being a big influence,” said Molitor. “There is something innate about it. I think with a man who is 27 you can eliminate bad decisions. But maybe you can’t make a good decision. “

The way home

There is a way out.

There is a way to fix this.

It will take time.

“It has to start at the youth level,” said Bradley. “When I was a kid, we played a game called ‘Running Bases’. ‘Pickle.’ These are baserunning games. I don’t even know if it’s there anymore. Children get better these days with all the training they get. Und das ist großartig. Aber es geht nur darum, dass sie ihren Schwung verbessern. Es geht um ihre privaten Pitching-Trainer.”

Molitor nannte es “Hot Box”.

“Das hat jeden Tag ein paar Stunden gekostet, eine kleine Hot Box zu spielen”, sagte er. “Ich wollte in den großen Ligen nicht in einen Durchfall geraten, aber als ich es tat, gab es mir Rückblenden auf den Spielplatz. Wenn man aus einer heißen Kiste der großen Liga herauskommen kann, war das eine ziemlich gute Leistung.”

Ein großes Lob an alle unsere Little League-Trainer, die Kindern das Spiel beibringen, aber. ..

“Unseren Kindern auf dem Niveau der Little League, sogar bis zur High School, wird buchstäblich gesagt, wann sie rennen und wann sie aufhören sollen. Sie werden nie allein gelassen, um ihren eigenen Instinkten zu vertrauen und zu wissen, wann ein Ball fallen könnte”, sagte Bradley. “Es ist wie: ‘Ich werde nicht laufen, es sei denn, der First-Base-Coach sagt mir, dass ich gehen soll.’ Wenn Sie darauf warten, dass der Trainer es Ihnen sagt, ist es zu spät. Ich habe mit Trainern gesprochen. Wir müssen darauf vertrauen, dass unsere Kinder Entscheidungen selbst treffen. Finden Sie Wege in der Praxis. Haben Sie keine Basistrainer in der Praxis. Und Sagen Sie den Kindern, warum Sie in der Praxis keine Basistrainer haben. Spielen Sie Situationen, in denen die Spieler es selbst herausfinden können.”

Es beginnt mit der Bildung. Aber der Schwerpunkt der Ausbildung ist ein großer Teil des Problems.

“Als ich es lehrte und als ich auf der Ebene der Major League trainierte und verwaltete, habe ich die Spieler ermutigt, dass ihre eigenen Entscheidungen entscheidend sind, um ein guter Baserunner zu sein”, sagte Molitor. “Ich muss mich auf den Trainer verlassen, wenn der Ball hinter mir liegt, aber was mich verrückt macht, wenn man auf der ersten Base mit einem Out sowieso von First zu Third denken sollte. Sagen wir, es gibt einen Ground Ball Up Sie sollten wissen, wo er spielt, Sie sollten wissen, wie er wirft, aber wenn sich der Runner dem Second Base nähert, sieht er sogar mit dem Spiel direkt vor ihm zum Third-Base-Coach hinüber.”

Willie Mays brauchte keinen Trainer. Jackie Robinson auch nicht. Molitor auch nicht.

“Ich hatte die Freiheit während des gesamten Colleges, der kleinen Ligen und sogar als ich in die großen Ligen kam – als 21-jähriger Spieler hatte ich grünes Licht direkt von der Rutsche”, sagte er. “Du verdienst dir dieses Vertrauen. Schau dir all die großartigen Baserunner an, du wirst keinen finden, der kein unabhängiger Denker war. Es ist wie ein Basketballspieler mit einer großartigen Vision des Platzes, oder Gretzky hinter dem Netz. Es gibt einige Leute, die einfach sind Ich werde das ganze Feld sehen. Es ist eine schöne Sache, wenn es passiert.”

Dieses Vertrauen hat sich Bryant bereits kurz nach seiner Ankunft in den großen Ligen im Jahr 2016 erworben.

“Ich habe in der High School gelernt, die Basen zu leiten, aber hauptsächlich habe ich zugeschaut, Baserunning-Übungen gemacht”, sagte er. “Aber als ich aufs College kam, haben wir uns richtig ins Zeug gelegt. Meine Trainer an der University of San Diego haben uns wirklich geholfen, unseren IQ beim Baserunning zu entwickeln.”

Nachdem wir unseren Little Leaguern beigebracht haben, wie man die Basen betreibt, besteht der nächste Schritt darin, mit High-School-Spielern zusammenzuarbeiten. Ihr Ziel ist es, kollegial oder professionell zu spielen, und der beste Weg, dies zu tun, ist die Teilnahme an Showcase-Camps. Aber dort betonen sie individuelle Fähigkeiten, insbesondere Kraft für einen Hitter und Geschwindigkeit für einen Pitcher. Sie sind nicht darauf spezialisiert, Baserunning zu unterrichten.

“Wenn sie es nicht testen”, fragte Showalter, “ist es ihnen egal?”

Es ist Zeit, sich um das Laufen zu kümmern.

Die MLB ist so besorgt über Baserunning oder deren Fehlen, dass sie mit mehreren Regeländerungen auf verschiedenen Ebenen des Baseballs der Minor League experimentiert. Bei Triple-A wurde die Basisgröße von 15 x 15 Zoll auf 18 x 18 Zoll erhöht. Die Überlegung ist, dass der kürzere Abstand zwischen den Basen eine höhere Erfolgsrate bei gestohlenen Basen sowie zu mehr Infield-Treffern und Bunt-Versuchen führen könnte.

In High-A-Ligen wird eine Regel übernommen, die 2019 in der Atlantic League verwendet wurde: Die Pitcher müssen sich vollständig vom Belag lösen, bevor sie auf eine Base werfen. Unter Anwendung dieser Regel verzeichnete die Atlantic League einen erheblichen Anstieg der gestohlenen Basen.

In Low-A-Ligen sind Pitcher während eines Plattenauftritts auf zwei Step-offs oder Pickoff-Versuche beschränkt – ein dritter Pickoff-Versuch wird als Blockade gewertet, es sei denn, er führt zu einem erfolgreichen Pickoff. By reducing step-off and pickoff attempts, in theory, players might have a greater chance to steal a base.

“I think there are a lot of people who are starting to understand that there are ways to make the game more aesthetically enjoyable,” Molitor said. “A return to prioritizing baserunning is starting to be rekindled, it makes me very happy. I think a return to that will make our game more appealing.”

It is up to the industry to make it happen, to lessen the value of the home run and increase the value of baserunning. Pay for good baserunning. Penalize for bad baserunning.

“The stolen base has become so obsolete,” one National League coach said. “Teams aren’t trying to stop the running game like they used to. They don’t even care if you run.”

Molitor lamented that runners, especially when in a rundown, no longer practice trying to draw an obstruction call. Yet on May 30, the Diamondbacks’ Tim Locastro, stuck in a rundown, tried to draw an obstruction call. It didn’t work — he was called out — but at least he tried.

We are bunting more often. Langsam. It is happening with old-school managers such as Baker, the Indians’ Tito Francona and the Angels’ Joe Maddon. On May 29, Baker had his rookie catcher, Garrett Stubbs, bunt twice in one game. One was a squeeze play, perfectly executed. It was the 11th RBI bunt of this season. That’s not very many. But it provides hope for the future.

Van Slyke was the first-base coach that day when the young player, with two outs, peeled off into right field instead of running to second. Van Slyke has hope for the future of baserunning.

“Remember,” he said, “that was a major league game, not a high school game. Aber if MLB really cares about the product on the field, we need to get the players’ association in on this, we need to bring the instincts back to the game of baseball. The only way this will turn — if things are done incorrectly so many times, you finally correct it.”

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