The balk rules that bogged down baseball last season have come to a discernible stop.
The changes that led to a record 924 balks - up from 356 the previous year - are being dropped, baseball announced Friday. From now on, balks will be called as they were before 1988.No longer will pitchers be required to make a "discernible" stop in the set position, although they still must come to a complete halt. Also, pitchers no longer must have "both" feet on the ground when they set.
The clarifications were adopted in December 1987 on a one-year trial basis. The Major League Baseball Players Association, which has the right to approve or veto such changes, opposed the newer language. Baseball's rules committee made it official Thursday.
"We thought that the change, both in enforcement and language, was inapproporiate and likely to force changes in the game that nobody wanted," Don Fehr, executive director of the union, said.
"The balk rule is to be enforced in 1989 as it was in 1987 and in earlier years," Fehr said. "I expect that to be the case. I expect there will be good faith."
But the squawking about balking might continue.
"They took the word `discernible' out, but you still have to come to a complete stop. We're telling umpires that," Ed Vargo, supervisor of National League umpires, said. "It's going to come down to judgment from the umpires. I guess we enforced it before."
Overall, 558 balks were called in the AL and 366 in the NL.