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Stealing First May Not Be a Crazy Idea

Earlier this year, Major League Baseball reached an agreement with the Atlantic League that allowed MLB to test any new playing rules in Atlantic League games. Five new rules already went into effect in the first half of the season, and a day after the Atlantic League All-Star Game, in addition to testing the electronic strike zone using TrackMan radar, MLB announced four new rules that would go into effect in the second half of the Atlantic League season. One of the four seems to have received stronger criticism on the Internet than others, and that is the idea of stealing first base.

According to this new rule, if a pitch is not caught in flight, the batter has the right to “steal” first base. In essence, this is an extended version of the dropped-third-strike rule that has long been engrained in the baseball rule books. Of course, a dropped third strike has many criteria: it must occur with two strikes, the pitch must be a strike, and unless it occurs with two outs, there cannot be a runner occupying first base. With this new rule, however, batters now have the right to go for first base in any count, regardless the pitch is a ball or strike, and in any base situations. And recently, we witnessed the first steal of first in professional baseball history:

On the second pitch in the bottom of the sixth inning, Alejandro Chacin of the Lancaster Barnstormers threw a wild pitch, which allowed Southern Maryland Blue Crabs outfielder Tony Thomas to steal first base. From the video, we can clearly tell that the players were still adjusting to this new rule, as neither the catcher nor the batter reacted at first. The fact that catcher Anderson De La Rosa took time to react was probably the main reason that allowed Thomas to reach first without a throw. Interestingly, the term “stealing first” might actually be a misnomer, as the play was scored as a fielder’s choice and counted as an 0-for-1, according to Somerset Patriots southpaw Rick Teasley. Read the rest of this entry »