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How to Get Pitchers to Stop Walking Aaron Judge

Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont is tired of watching Aaron Judge walk — and his solution is actually a good one.

It’s not often that Yankees fans and Yankees haters unite, so when it happens, you know it has to be around one universal truth.

That’s what we’ve seen over the past week as Aaron Judge has sat on 60 home runs, one shy of tying Roger Maris for the American League record. Last week at Yankee Stadium, boos rained down on Red Sox pitchers as they worked around the slugger. It’s understandable: Yankees fans want to see Judge make history.

Then the Yankees headed north to face the Toronto Blue Jays, and the Jays walked Judge four times on Tuesday. And the home fans fans booed their own pitcher each time.

Everyone wants to see Judge take a shot at history — or maybe Toronto fans just want to see their pitchers strike him out. That’s also fair.

Regardless, nobody is tuning in to watch Aaron Judge walk.

Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont, of all people, had a possible solution on Wednesday.

Ned Lamont’s suggestion is simple:

  • If a player walks once, he is awarded first base as normal.
  • If he walks twice, he is awarded second base.
  • Three times and he goes directly to third.
  • The fourth time? As Lamont says, “you might as well pitch to them. It’s the equivalent of a home run.”

The idea is wild. It’s outlandish. It’s a radical change to a sport that clings to tradition like a six-term US Senator who still insists on running again.

Maybe it’s the frustrated Yankees fan in me, but it’s far from the worst idea. If Major League Baseball decided to institute this rule today, it wouldn’t even be the worst new rule currently in play — the soon-to-be-extinct “Manfred Man” (or “ghost runner,” if you want to let the commissioner off the hook) still holds that distinction.

In an era of low batting averages and three true outcomes, baseball wants to increase offense. We know this because the league is going to ban the shift starting next year.

Let’s try this, too.

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If fans feel Lamont’s suggestion is too radical, there are some guardrails we can put in place, like only applying it to intentional walks or walks on four (or even five) pitches. Yes, true that each of Judge’s walks on Tuesday, Sept. 27 came on a full count, but with this rule in place, at least pitchers would have to throw him a couple strikes each at bat and not simply count on Judge innocuously fouling a couple off in the process.

At risk of sounding like an old guy, this wasn’t always necessary. There used to be a time in which pitchers would take pride in striking out a slugger gunning for a record. And it was exciting to watch because they weren’t scared.

I’ve thought a lot lately about the 1998 home run race that saved baseball. The sport was still reeling from the 1994 strike that cancelled the World Series; with the game desperate for popularity, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa (pardon my word choice) injected some (again) juice into the sport. ESPN would cut away from its programming to show their at bats. And just about every day, one or both of them would go yard.

When Judge first started going for 61, this happened again, and college football fans weren’t happy about that on Saturday. But as Mr. All Rise has sat on 60, the chase has become more an exercise in frustration than an edge-of-your-seat thrill ride. The cowardice on display from the Red Sox and Blue Jays in these instances is the kind that sucks the fun out of what should be one of the most exciting happenings in sports.

Don’t give me nonsense about strategy, either. The Jays are in a Wild Card race and need to do what they can to win a game, and Judge came around to score twice on Tuesday to help the Yankees win 5-2, clinching the AL East at Rogers Centre and spraying champaign in the clubhouse. You can’t tell me that was the best possible plan all along.

Most of us don’t tend to want politicians interfering with our lives, and I get that. But Gov. Lamont has proposed a reasonable solution to a real problem — one that affects fans around the league and the game itself.

In a world of such intense political divide, I hope the Ned Lamont Rule receives bipartisan support.

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