ENGLISH: Dropped third strike rule dumb

Published 11:36 pm Thursday, June 7, 2012

By Jim English

A recent record-breaking accomplishment by a Minnesota high school pitcher served to put one of the dumbest rules in all of sports in the spotlight.

The headline read “Pitcher Sets Record By Striking Out 5 In One Inning”.

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Now those of you with a basic understanding of the game of baseball may be left scratching your head, thinking such a feat is impossible. But those of us who understand the rules a little better probably had it figured out after a little bit of thinking.

Here’s how it happened:

Eric Veghlan was three outs away from finishing off a complete-game shutout. He struck out the first two batters, but when the third batter of the inning swung at and missed the third strike, the catcher couldn’t hang on to the curveball, and it got past him. Because of the dreaded “dropped third strike” rule, the batter took off for first base and made it safely, allowing the inning to continue.

For those of you who don’t know, the rules state – for some unknown reason – that if the catcher is unable to catch the third strike, the batter can advance to first base unless he is tagged with the ball or a throw is made to first base before he reaches it.

Now facing his fourth batter of the inning, Veghlan struck him out also, but again the catcher couldn’t handle the pitch, allowing another batter to reach base. The tying run stepped to the plate, and with his coaches probably wondering what in the world they had to do to bring the game to an end, Veghlan struck out the fifth consecutive batter of his half of the inning and the catcher hung on this time.

So rare was the feat, that it appears to have only happened 3 times in the minor leagues and once in a major league spring training game.

But honestly, if I had my way, the record could not have been accomplished.

There are a several rules that I don’t necessarily agree with or think should be changed somehow. But then are a handful of others that just make no sense at all.

What was the thinking when someone decided to include the “dropped third strike” rule? How is it fair to a pitcher who has just outwitted or overpowered a batter, that the batter still has a chance to make it to base?

Isn’t the entire concept of competition to pit one person or team against another, and “may the best man win”? If a batter gets three chances at pitches thrown in the strike zone – taking into consideration foul balls of course – and is unable to get a hit, he should have to sit down. Period. He faced off against a pitcher and the pitcher beat him. Better luck next time.

If a pitcher walks a batter, there is no rule that allows the pitcher one more chance to keep him from reaching base. It had to be a former player who: A.) never pitched, and B.) had a habit of striking out on bad pitches who invented this idiotic rule.

You can bet your bottom dollar it wasn’t a catcher who came up with it.

Can you imagine the pressure that Veghlan’s catcher was feeling by the time that fifth batter – representing the potential tying run – stepped into the batter’s box?

The rule of the dropped third strike just seems to me to violate the most basic foundation of competition. The batter steps up to the plate. The pitcher toes the rubber. The pitcher gets four chances, the batter gets three. Once those chances are used up, you’re done. It can’t get much more fair than that. They both know the rules.

When a boxer is knocked down and the referee counts to ten, it’s over.

When a kicker boots a potential game-tying field goal, but watches the ball sail wide of the uprights, he can’t call for a “do-over”.

And there are no “mulligans” for the golfer who plunks his ball into the pond in an actual tournament.

Nobody bats 1.000. If three good pitches cross the strike zone, and you fail to hit one of them, you deserve to sit down.

That’s sports……and that’s life.

What a dumb rule.