Cubs' Maddon, Bryant don't think changing intentional walk will speed up game

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • Chicago Cubs President of Baseball operations Theo Epstein, left, and Manager Joe Maddon have a conversation during Spring training at Sloan Park in Mesa, Arizona, Wednesday.

    Chicago Cubs President of Baseball operations Theo Epstein, left, and Manager Joe Maddon have a conversation during Spring training at Sloan Park in Mesa, Arizona, Wednesday. Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

  • Joe Lewnard/jlewnard@dailyherald.comThird baseman Kris Bryant smiles during Spring training at Sloan Park in Mesa, Arizona, Wednesday.

    Joe Lewnard/jlewnard@dailyherald.comThird baseman Kris Bryant smiles during Spring training at Sloan Park in Mesa, Arizona, Wednesday.

 
 
Updated 2/23/2017 6:05 AM

MESA, Ariz. -- Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon is the kind of guy who goes by the axiom of if it ain't broke, don't fix it.

But Maddon also seems flexible enough to roll with some of the changes to baseball. That includes the expected change this year from pitchers throwing four pitches for an intentional walk to managers merely signaling their intention to walk the batter.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

That idea, among others being discussed, is aimed at speeding up the pace of play and cutting the time it takes to play the games.

"I've always been that guy," Maddon said Wednesday of preferring to leave things alone. "I always talk about organic methods of change. I'm not a tinkerer although you might say different things I've done, whether it's shifting on defense, utilization of different plays we've done, whether it's the first baseman coming in, in the slot between the mound (and base). I don't know if that's tinkering. That's just a new method."

With intentional walks, there is always the possibility -- however slim -- of something going haywire, such as a pitcher uncorking a wild pitch, a batter swinging at a ball close to the plate and lining a hit or even the defense tricking the batter and throwing a strike on a 3-2 count.

"That's the anomaly moment," Maddon said. "I have seen the ball hit. I have seen the ball hit to benefit the offense. It's kind of like a push with me. I know some (pitchers) that I've had in the past that don't like to do that because they don't like to throw the four pitches. So you're taking away even a small threat, but there's a threat nevertheless, that a guy just can't do that, and you can benefit from it offensively.

"By the same token, if you have a guy that doesn't like to do it from the mound, you kind of like it because he doesn't have to go through the angst of going through that four pitches. It's just of those things. I don't think it has that much of an impact on the game. It will be a new normal in a relatively short period of time. Right now it's going to elicit a lot of discussion. I get it."

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Many players over the years have voiced the opinion of keeping things the way they are. Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant echoed them Wednesday.

"It doesn't seem like it's going to speed up the game any more," Bryant said of the new intentional-walk rule. "If anything, it might hurt it because I think it (four-pitch walks) puts pressure on the pitchers to make that pitch. It seems like it's not stressful at, but anytime you're not throwing it full effort for a pitcher, there's a chance we could do damage on that.

"There's been plenty of times a guy has thrown away an intentional walk. It will be interesting to see how that works out."

Pace of play and time of games have been topics talked about for the last 20 years. Pitch clocks, limiting visits to the mound and making hitters stay in the batter's box have either been tried or talked about as have shortening commercial breaks between innings. That's a sticky topic because of the advertising revenue the commercials generate.

With game times often exceeding three hours, Major League Baseball has been concerned that younger people don't have the patience to sit through a long afternoon or evening.

Maddon says he doesn't notice the length of games.

"If I had more interior information, maybe you could be more supportive of it," he said of the speed-up efforts. "I've talked about it in the past. I don't really understand the pace-of-game issues, because I really don't pay attention to that. I'm just locked in to managing the game. The nine innings goes 2 hours and minutes or 3 hours and 20, as long as you win, I don't care.

"That's where I come from. But there's obviously something larger than that that's really causing a lot of these discussions. From my office, I don't really know what that is. But I do know new normals may occur with more education or definition. I may support it more easily. I just don't know. I've never been concerned about that from my chair."

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