Yankees reliever Rafael Soriano stepped toward third base and bluffed a pickoff throw, then twirled and made a soft toss to first. No dice, the Tampa Bay runners didn’t fall for that ol’ trick — they’d seen it too often.
Starting next year, no one might ever see that exact play again.
Major League Baseball is poised to pick off the much-maligned move, the fake-to-third, throw-to-first ploy that often succeeds only in getting the whole ballpark to shout ”Balk!”
”I think they should get rid of it,” Yankees reliever Boone Logan said. ”Us lefties can’t do that. If we do, they call a balk.”
”Besides, how often does it work? Maybe once in never,” he said.
The Playing Rules Committee has approved a proposal to make it a balk, too, with MLB executives and umpires in agreement. The players’ union vetoed the plan for this season to discuss it further. MLB is allowed to implement the change after a one-year wait – no telling whether that would happen if players strongly object.
The play is specifically addressed in the Official Baseball Rules under Rule 8.05 (c), which states: ”It is possible, with runners on first and third, for the pitcher to step toward third and not throw, merely to bluff the runner back to third; then seeing the runner on first start for second, turn and step toward and throw to first base. This is legal.”
Hence, no balk. Not yet, anyway. But A pickoff move that’s been part of baseball strategy for years might get picked off next season.