The Intentional Walk ….. And “Walk’r” the Chicken!

  “We weren’t trying to walk him; he just wouldn’t swing at any bad pitches.”  -Bobby Cox, on the Braves walking Barry Bonds 7 times in a series

There’s nothing that irks me quite as much as the intentional walk.  I’ve always wondered how the pitchers feel about it.   If  the batter’s a real crackerjack, would they be glad they don’t have to pitch to him or would they welcome the challenge?   If the pitcher is a really good pitcher, and has a lot of confidence in knowing he’s a really good pitcher, wouldn’t you think he’d welcome the chance to get a strikeout, knowing he had the competitive edge?  You know the saying, “Good pitching beats good hitting anytime”.    Personally, if I were a pitcher I think I’d be a little insulted if the manager gave me the signal to walk a batter. I’d think he probably didn’t have enough confidence in me to be able to get the guy out.  But that’s just me.  On February 4, 1956, the  American League announced it would begin testing the automatic intentional walk during spring training.    I don’t know when the National League jumped on the bandwagon, but at some point they definitely did.   Before that time, I guess the pitcher always pitched the ball and the batter swung,  or not, depending on the pitch.  Geez, what a novel idea huh?   I think here in San Francisco we’ve had a belly-full of the stuff and that’s why I’m a little antagonistic on the subject.  Back in 2004, ESPN reported the Giants concessions would start  selling “rubber chickens” , appropriately named Walk’r, to protest the number of walks at AT&T Park.  The chicken was an instant success and the chickens, if necessary, are still evident in the park today.  To illustrate how bad it had become, you might be surprised to know that Barry Bonds today still holds the career record for most “Intentional Bases on Balls” (since 1955)  with a startling 645 intentional walks.   George Brett  is second with 229.   It’s highly unlikely Bonds’ record will be broken anytime soon.   Here’s some statistics on Intentional Bases on Balls Records, provided by Baseball Almanac:  

 
Intentional Bases On Balls Records
Records Only Kept Officially Since 1955
Single Season Records
Record Lg Name(s) Team(s) Data
Most
In A Season
(Top 100)
AL John Olerud Toronto 33 1993
Ted Williams Boston 1957
NL Barry Bonds San Francisco 120 2004
Most
In A Season
By A Lefthander
AL John Olerud Toronto 33 1993
Ted Williams Boston 1956
NL Barry Bonds San Francisco 120 2004
Most
In A Season
By A Righthander
AL Frank Howard Washington 29 1970
Frank Thomas Chicago 1995
NL Albert Pujols St. Louis 44 2009
Most
In A Season
By A Rookie
AL Alvin Davis Seattle 16 1984
NL Willie Montanez Philadelphia 14 1971
Most
In A Season
By A Switch-Hitter
AL Eddie Murray Baltimore 25 1984
NL Tim Raines Montreal 26 1987
Most At Bats
In A Season
No Intentional Walks
AL Kirby Puckett Minnesota 691 1985
NL Jose Reyes New York 696 2005
 
According to Baseball Almanac, the one event in baseball that signifies true respect is the intentional walk with bases loaded.  The implication, I guess, is that the pitcher is showing respect to the batter by walking him instead of pitching to him, out of  fear he might hit the ball.   Personally, I’d  like to see the pitcher, pitch to the batter and strike the socks off  him, or not.  Now that, my friends, would command some real respect, don’t you think?

One response to “The Intentional Walk ….. And “Walk’r” the Chicken!

  1. I wish they would abolish the intentional walk. I think baseball would be purer if they did.

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