Sure to bring mixed feelings, Major League Baseball has now eliminated the third-to-first fake pick-off play. The rule change will go into effect in the 2013 season as faking a throw to third base will now be a balk.
While it angered many fans, elicited groans from others, and was loved by many as strategic, there is little evidence that the move was effective in actually picking off base runners. Rarely does a pitcher catch a runner off guard with the move. However, any die hard baseball fan knows there is much more to the game than just outs.
Whether it's done so the pitcher can compose himself or get a little extra time for that reliever, getting the base runner to commit a mistake, make the batter a little antsy, or to legitimately get a critical out, the move served for several effective strategical purposes.
Critics say the move slows down game play and with games running long enough as is, finding ways to quicken the pace is certainly a good idea. Just how much time is this going to save though? Surely there are other areas which merit more attention.
Many also say the move is deceptive. Balk rules are designed to take deception out of the game. This point is debatable being that every time the move is made, everyone knows what is happening. Deception would involve not knowing what's going to happen.
Whatever the reason for the change, MLB is not saying.
Will we ever see the play made legal again? It's doubtful.
One has to wonder when this ruling will trickle down to the college and high school levels where the move is more effective.