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Archive for Tuesday, December 12, 2000

High strike back in ball?

Major league skippers skeptical umpires will change strike zone

December 12, 2000

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— Many managers were skeptical after hearing baseball's plan to bring back the high strike.

"We'd all like it to move up an inch or two above the belt," Minnesota's Tom Kelly said Sunday after a meeting between umpires, managers and baseball officials. "But 10, 11 or 12 inches? That's wrong. I don't know if the umpires can do that."

Both the managers and the umpires are in agreement that it will take time for people to get used to the changes.

"There needs to be patience on all parts," umpire Ed Montague said. "We have to live with it. That's what this meeting was about."

Sandy Alderson, one of baseball's executive vice presidents, told general managers last month that the strike zone will be called according to the rule book this season.

A pitch should be called a strike if any part of a ball crosses over any part of home plate, and if the pitch is between the hollow of the knee and the midpoint between the belt buckle and shoulders.

"There are two things we are looking for in the strike zone. One is accuracy and two is consistency," Alderson said following a meeting between most major league managers and crew chiefs, the first in m emory. "You have to be accurate and consistent, not just one or the other."

But there is already confusion about how high the strike zone will go. Umpires left the meeting believing it was equal to the diameter of two or three baseballs above the belt, or 6-to-9 inches. Managers left thinking it might be more than a foot higher.

"We can talk all we want about it, but the fact is when umpires have to look up at a ball, they're not going to call it a strike," Pittsburgh manager Lloyd McClendon said.

There was also talk about the pace of the game, body armor, brushback pitches and other topics. But the central theme of the meeting was the strike zone.

And some managers are afraid that calling higher strikes could end up hurting pitchers, not helping them.

"I don't want to encourage our pitchers to throw the high strike," Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said. "Unless you are one of those guys with 95 mph gas, you don't want to leave the ball up in the zone. If you were going to expand the zone in any direction, up helps the pitcher the least."

Unless you are able to throw that high heat past hitters. And most of those pitchers, like Pedro Martinez, don't need the help anyway.

"Pedro might never lose," Indians manager Charlie Manuel said of the three-time Cy Young Award winner.

The crew chiefs will reconvene in January and all umpires will meet later that month for one week to go over the new interpretations.

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