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What does Dusty Baker think about an automatic intentional walk rule?

Rule changes are probably coming. Dusty Baker has thoughts about that. (Wilfredo Lee/Associated Press)
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MIAMI — Major League Baseball’s competition committee agreed to make intentional walks automatic and raise the strike zone, according to an ESPN report posted Friday. The changes must be approved by various other committees before going into effect, but if they do, intentionally walking players would require only the intent to do so — a signal, not four balls, would send a runner to first base. The strike zone’s lowest reaches would be the top of a hitter’s knee, a change intended to combat the low strike and therefore induce more contact, according to the report. Both changes would, in theory, increase the pace of play baseball is so concerned about recently.

Nationals Manager Dusty Baker had not heard much about the potential changes by his availability Saturday afternoon. Presented with the basics, and the idea both changes are aimed at increasing pace of play, Baker had a question of his own.

“So why don’t we speed up the replay?” Baker said. “That’s what I’m thinking. Speed up the replay. If it’s not conclusive in a minute and thirty seconds, we go about our business. That’s what I’d like to see.”

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Baker has expressed his discontent with replay before, not so much with the fact that it exists — the process did not exist in its current form when Baker managed in Cincinnati — but about how it disrupts the rhythm of the game. But steered again toward the automatic potential walk, Baker had more thoughts, as he tends to do.

“Some guys can’t [throw four balls]. Some guys throw it away,” said Baker, who continued:

“I’ve seen a guy, we got in a fight in Philly a few years ago when Tim McGraw was trying to walk Joe Ferguson and [Ferguson] hit a double down the line — he got it too close. We got in a fight with them because [McGraw] hit Billy Russell the next batter up.”

Jayson Werth, the eldest Nationals player, generally thoughtful about such things, wondered how many more rule changes major league baseball has made in the past three years as compared to the first 100-plus.

“I don’t know what the theories are, or who’s coming up with them, or what,” Werth said. “But I feel like this thing’s worked pretty good for a long time and now, all of a sudden, we get a lot of changes.”

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These two changes are not official yet, of course. Making the intentional walk automatic would speed up the game, but eliminate the adventure of the thing. Raising the strike zone would force pitchers to throw more balls up in the zone, where hitters like them, but who knows what effect those few inches might have.

“All I know is that nobody ever asked me,” Baker said. “. . . my opinion don’t mean too much.”

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